MURFREESBORO, TN (ASU) — The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders had to work extra innings to avoid a Sun Belt Conference series sweep by Arkansas State, but first baseman Ethan Williams delivered a two-run walk-off home run in the 11th to give MTSU a 5-3 victory over the Red Wolves Sunday afternoon at Reese Smith Jr. Field.
Arkansas State defeated the Blue Raiders 8-5 in both the Friday and Saturday games, and took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the eighth Sunday, but MTSU tied the game with a run in the eighth before winning in the 11th.
With the loss, Arkansas State is now 12-7 in Sun Belt Conference play (23-19 overall), two games behind league-leader Florida Atlantic, which sits at 14-5. Arkansas State went into the weekend three games behind the Owls, but FAU dropped two of three games at Troy over the weekend. Middle Tennessee is now 25-21 overall and 11-10 in SBC action. The Red Wolves are alone in second place, one game ahead of 12-9 South Alabama, which visits Jonesboro next weekend.
"Middle Tennessee is a good ball club, and very well coached," said ASU head coach Tommy Raffo. "They do a good job of hitting, pitching and fielding, they doubled up the hits against us today, (16-8) and yet we werestill in the ballgame. For us to stay in the ballgame when they out-hit us two-to-one, that says a lot for our pitching and defense. We gave ourselves a chance, it just wasn't enough."
"The series win is big for our team," added Raffo. "The Sun Belt is a tough, tough league and you just have to fight your way through. We will go home, get ready for exams this week and a big weekend coming up."
A two-out, two-run home run in the second from left fielder Logan Uxa got the scoring started for Arkansas State, and a sacrifice fly from third baseman Claude Johnson in the fifth drove in second baseman Zach Maggio for a 3-0 Red Wolves advantage. Maggio singled to lead off the fifth for ASU, moved to second on a base hit from first baseman Zach George and advanced to third when Uxa flew out to center field.
MTSU answered in the bottom of the fifth with a 2-run home run from Williams, then took advantage of an ASU error to tie the game at 3-3 with a run in the eighth.
The Blue Raiders threatened in the 10th when third baseman Hank LaRue doubled to lead off, but ASU senior reliever Brandon Farley retired the next two batter and intentionally walked center fielder Ryan Stephens before ASU third baseman Alex Potts made a diving stop of catcher Michael Adkins' grounder and threw to second for the force out.
Arkansas State managed to load the bases in the 11th when catcher Stuart Levy drew a two-out walk, advanced to third on a single from shortstop Dustin Jones, and center fielder Michael Faulkner walked, but Maggio was barely beaten by the throw to first when he grounded out to third base to end the threat.
Farley (2-3) took the loss on the mound for ASU, working the final 3.1 innings. Farley, one of five pitchers on the day for A-State, surrendered the final three runs on five hits, striking out one and walking two. Starter Cory Kyle worked 4.1 innings, giving up two runs on nine hits, with three strikeouts and no walks.
Nathan Foriest (2-2) picked up the win for the Blue Raiders in just one-third of an inning of work. Foriest did not give up a run or a hit, walked one and struck out none.
Eightplayers had one hit each for ASU, with Uxa driving in two runs and scoring once. Williams was 3-for-5 with four RBIs to lead MTSU.
Arkansas State returns to action May 4 when the Red Wolves host South Alabama in a three-game Sun Belt Conference series. Friday's series-opener is set for 6:00 p.m., Saturday's contest will get underway at 4:00 p.m. and Sunday game is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.