Middle Tennessee Sweeps ASU In Saturday Twinbill

Jonesboro (ASU) - After opening their Sun Belt Conference series with a 4-3 victory Friday night, the Arkansas State State Red Wolves (12-8, 3-3) took preseason SBC favorite Middle Tennessee State to the wire in a pair of games Saturday afternoon, but the Blue Raiders (13-6, 4-2)  emerged with a sweep of the double header to capture the series at Tomlinson Stadium and Kell Field.

The Blue Raiders overcame an early 4-0 ASU advantage to post an 8-5 victory in the day's opening game, then got a complete-game shutout from senior pitcher Chad Edwards to grab the series victory with a 2-0 win the in the final game.

Edwards (2-1) struck out four, walked one and gave up seven hits to out-duel ASU sophomore Jacob Lee (2-2), who took the loss in the game despite a strong outing.  Lee worked seven innings for the Red Wolves, giving up the two MTSU runs on six hits.  Lee struck out six batters and walked two.  Both starters threw 113 pitches on the day.

"Middle Tennessee is a great hitting ballclub, up and down the lineup," said ASU head coach Tommy Raffo.  "They do things to make you work.  They foul off pitches and use the middle of the field.  But I am pleased with Jacob as obviously he is maturing and getting better."

Middle Tennessee used an RBI single from third baseman Tyler Burnett in the second and a single from shortstop Ryan Ford in the seventh to drive in the game's only two runs.

Both teams notched seven hits in the game, but the Red Wolves could not string together enough to get runners home and didn't get a runner past first base in the final five innings.

In the opening game of the day Arkansas State used RBI hits from first baseman Murray Watts and designated hitter Ryan Emery to drive in a pair of first-inning runs, then added two more in the third to take a 4-0 lead, getting RBIs in the inning from third baseman Jordan Castaldo and catcher Kyle DeGrace.

With two outs on the board in the fourth, the Blue Raiders took advantage of an ASU error to score three unearned runs, then tied the game at 4-4 with a run in the fourth.  

"The turning point came in the fourth when we had the opportunity to get the third out, and it didn't happen," said Raffo.  "We ended up giving up three runs and I think that added some life to their club."

Middle Tennessee took a 5-4 lead in the sixth on an RBI single from catcher Tyler Acker, but the Red Wolves knotted the score at 5-5 in the bottom of the inning when second baseman Giovanni Garcia singled to drive in a run.

The Blue Raiders went on top for good in the eighth when third baseman Tyler Burnett singled in a run, then added a pair of insurance runs in the ninth to set the final at 8-5.

Junior Nick Montgomery (5-1) picked up the win on the mound in the opener, giving up no runs on two hits with a walk and a strikeout over the final three and one-thirds innings.  Junior Drew Benes took the loss for ASU.  Benes (0-1) gave up a single run on one hit, while striking out one and walking none.

Garcia went 3-for-9 on the day to lead ASU at the plate, while second baseman Justin Miller was 4-for-8 with a double, a triple and three RBIs to pace MTSU.

Arkansas State will play its next four games on the road, beginning with a March 24 trip to Southeast Missouri State.  Following that, the Red Wolves will resume Sun Belt Conference play March 26-28 at New Orleans.