Walk-off grand slam gives MTSU 5-1 win over WKU

Brad Stephens

Middle Tennessee was shut down by WKU freshman right-hander Justin Hageman for seven innings Friday night.

But the Blue Raiders played long ball off Hageman in the eighth and senior right-hander Brian Edelen in the ninth to clinch a 5-1 win over the Toppers in front of 412 at Reese Smith Field.

The win was the first for MTSU (18-36, 9-20 Sun Belt Conference) over WKU (31-22, 16-13 Sun Belt) in five attempts this season.

Blue Raider right fielder Will Skinner hit the big blow in the ninth, knocking a 1-1 Edelen offering over the left field wall to give MTSU the win.

WKU took a 1-0 lead in the first when junior left fielder Jared Andreoli doubled, and then was driven in on a double from junior second baseman Ivan Hartle.

The Toppers threatened for more runs, but junior center fielder Kes Carter grounded into a double play and junior right fielder Ryan Hutchison grounded to the pitcher to end the inning.

That was the last inning in which WKU would score, as Blue Raider pitcher Hunter Adkins (2-9) allowed just one run on three hits in a complete-game victory.

Head Coach Chris Finwood told WKU’s Big Red Radio following the game that his team’s lack of production was due in large part to poor plate discipline.

“He was throwing the ball up in the zone, and we’ve just got to do a better job of laying off some of those pitches,” Finwood said. “We had some bad approaches by older guys.”

Hartle and Andreoli combined for three of the Toppers’ four hits Friday. Freshman designated hitter Scott Wilcox had the other.

Hageman matched Adkins pitch for pitch, as he took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and a shutout into the eighth.

But MTSU right fielder Matthew Drake led off the eighth with a solo shot to tie the game at 1-1.

The home run marked the first Blue Raider run of the series after 16 combined shutout innings Thursday and Friday from WKU pitchers Tanner Perkins, Ross Hammonds, Phil Wetherell and Hageman.

“Justin and Tanner have both pitched very well this weekend,” Finwood said. “We’ve just got to get the bats going.”

Hageman left with a no-decision after giving up one run on two hits in eight innings.

Edelen (6-2) lasted just a third of an inning, giving up four runs on two hits, a walk, and a hit batsman.

WKU’s loss, combined with Florida Atlantic’s 2-0 win over Florida International, drops the Toppers into fifth place in Sun Belt standings.

The rubber game of the series and regular-season finale for both teams will be played at 1 p.m. Saturday.

The Blue Raiders will send right-hander Eric Gilley (4-5, 5.33 ERA) to the mound, while the Toppers’ starter has yet to be determined.

Finwood said his hitters “have to figure it out.”

“We’re in the last regular-season game and we’ve got some guys struggling,” Finwood said. “So they’ve just got to work it out.”