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Too Little, Too Late: MTSU Falls to Charlotte After Mounting a Comeback in the Ninth Inning

By: Jordan Binkley

MTN Sports Reporter

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Middle Tennessee's pitching woes hampered their chances of getting back into the game Friday night as Charlotte won 10-5 at Reese Smith Jr. Field.

"We came back a little bit there late and scrambled," said coach Jim Toman. "We ended up getting 14 hits, which should've been enough to win, but we didn't pitch good enough."

Pitching struggles were the straw that broke the camel's back for the Blue Raiders in Friday's game as MTSU fell 9-0 through the first four innings of play. Throughout the night, five different pitchers took the mound for the Blue Raiders, and MTSU struggled to receive offensive production until the fifth inning.

Eriq Swan was the first pitcher on the mound for the Blue Raiders but got replaced by James Sells during the third inning after giving up three scores and posting an 8.48 ERA.

However, a change of scenery at the pitching position was not enough to dig MTSU out of the hole. Shortly after Sells checked into the game, Charlotte scored two more times, giving the 49ers a 6-0 lead after the third inning.

The fourth inning was more of the same as Charlotte scored twice off a single to left field, and Sells got subbed out for Jacob Wright.

"[Sells] has been pitching well; I thought he could stop the bleeding a little bit, but obviously, he came into a tough situation," said Toman. "He came into the third inning with the bases loaded and no outs, so that's tough."

The onslaught continued as Charlotte scored again, giving the 49ers a 9-0 lead until Tatsunori Negishi scored for MTSU in the bottom of the fourth to give the Blue Raiders their first point.

In the top of the fifth inning, the Blue Raiders managed to slow down the bleeding slightly as MTSU prevented Charlotte from scoring any more runs in the inning. However, fireworks erupted in the bottom of the fifth after Toman disputed an out call made by the umpire on an attempted steal.

Kicking up dirt and a few choice words were enough to lead to an ejection for Toman. Whether MTSU's players got fired up for their coach sticking up for them or Charlotte took their foot off the gas, the Blue Raiders began to perform better for the remainder of the game.

In the top of the sixth, Charlotte scored their final run of the game after a fly-out led to Hunter Baker scoring from third. MTSU went scoreless in the inning but picked up the slack in the bottom of the seventh after JT Mabry scored off on an error by the right fielder.

Not satisfied with defeat, the Blue Raiders steamrolled through the ninth inning, scoring three additional runs from Briggs Rutter, Luke Vinson, and Mason McLeod. MTSU was poised to pull off a miracle, but the fairytale ending got cut short after Gabe Jennings struck out and Jacob Williams lined out to end regulation.

"I think it is a testament to our offense; we kind of have a dog-mentality that we claw back into games after getting punched," Rutter said. "The mentality is never that we are out of a game; it's that we can go up and put up eight runs or put up nine to go win a ballgame. It's never a doubt in our minds."

MTSU's final game against Charlotte takes place Saturday at noon as the Blue Raiders hope to make up for Friday night's shortcomings and clinch the series.


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