Middle Tennessee clinched a series victory over UALR with a 7-6 win at Reese Smith Junior Field on Saturday afternoon. The Blue Raiders (19-12, 7-4) jumped out to a 7-0 lead after three innings, and held off a late rally by the Trojans (16-15, 3-8) as UALR stranded 10 runners and hit into a double play in the seventh and eighth innings.
Middle Tennessee manufactured six runs in the second inning to take control of the game early on, as the Blue Raiders totaled five hits and a walk in the frame. Hank LaRue got things going with a leadoff triple, and Justin Guidry and Johnny Thomas delivered the big blows with a two-run double and a two-run homer, respectively.
UALR starter Ethan Schlechte eventually managed to get out of the second inning, but was pulled from the game after giving up two more singles in the third. Schlechte took the loss after allowing eight hits and seven runs over 2.1 innings.
MT extended its lead to 7-0 in the bottom of the third off a sacrifice fly by Robert Lawrence, but that would be all the scoring the Blue Raiders would do in the game. Four UALR relievers combined to shutout Middle Tennessee over the final 5.2 innings while allowing just one hit. Sophomore Austin Pfeiffer came on in relief of Schlechte in the third and worked 3.2 scoreless frames without allowing a hit to help UALR get back in the game.
Johnathan Frebis opened the game with four shutout innings for Middle Tennessee, but ran into trouble in the fifth as the first four Trojans reached base off three singles and a walk. Junior Myles Parma put the Trojans on the board with a two-run single through the right side, and senior Nick Rountree added a two-run double to left center two batters later. MT brought on Nick Montgomery after the double, but Rountree was able to cap off the five-run rally by scoring from third on an error by MT shortstop Ryan Ford.
Trailing 7-5 in the top of the sixth, sophomore Tyler Cameron reached on a fielding error at third and moved into scoring position by stealing second. With two runners on and two outs, senior Sean Bignall delivered a run-scoring single up the middle to make it a 7-6 ballgame. The tying run advance to third on the play, but Montgomery got out of the inning with a fielder's choice.
Down by a run, sophomore Kaleb Jobe tried to get a rally going in the seventh with a leadoff single, but MT's Paul Mittura got a 1-6-3 double play ball from the next batter he faced. UALR put two more runners on base in the inning off a walk and a hit batter, but Cody Tollison came on to pitch and got out of the inning with a fly out in foul territory.
After hitting Parma to start off the eighth inning, the Blue Raiders brought on Daniel Palo to try and close things out. Palo faced the minimum number of hitters to record the last five outs, thanks in part to a 6-4-3 double play ball from the first Trojan he faced in the eighth. He closed out the game in the ninth by striking out the side for his third save of the year.
Middle Tennessee outhit the Trojans 9-to-8 in the win, led by multi-hit games from Guidry, LaRue and Ryan Stephens. Junior Blake Johnson led the Trojans with two hits, while Parma and Rountree totaled two RBI apiece.
UALR and Middle Tennessee close out the three-game series Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.