Miller notches pair of RBIs to power Middle Tennessee past No. 2 Vandy
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- Middle Tennesse scored three runs in the first inning and never looked back, taking down No. 2 Vanderbilt 4-1 on Wednesday at Reese Smith Jr. Field.
It marked the first victory for Middle Tennessee (12-10, 0-3 SBC) against the Commodores (19-3, 3-0 SEC) since 2009 when the Blue Raiders earned a 5-4 win in the NCAA Regional in Louisville, Ky.
The Blue Raiders turned three double plays in the contest and held the Commodores to two hits in the final three innings. Jordan Cooper got MT off to a solid start, tossing 4.2 innings and giving up just three hits. It was the defense that worked around Cooper's six walks, turning a pair of double plays when the Commodores had two runners on and no outs.
Joey McClung picked up the win with 2.2 innings of relief, allowing one run unearned on three hits. Daniel Palo came on for the final 1.2 innings, throwing 31 pitches, 21 for strikes, and giving up just one hit for his third save of the year.
First baseman Trent Miller and shortstop Ryan Ford led the Blue Raiders offensively. Miller went 2-for-4, driving in the first two runs of the game. Ford was 3-for-4 in the leadoff spot, scoring the game's first run.
Ford led off the first with a single and center fielder Ryan Stephens followed with a walk before Miller laced a one-out double down the left-field line, scoring two. Designated hitter Michael Adkins made it back-to-back doubles, plating Miller for the 3-0 lead in the first.
The Commodores put two runners on in each of the next two innings, but MT ended the second with a double play and erased a pair of runners in the third with a double play as well. With a runner at second in the latter frame, Ford made a back-handed stab and threw a strike to first to pick up the final out of the inning and preserve the 3-0 lead.
MT tacked on another run in the third, capitalizing on an error to lead off the inning. Second baseman Johnny Thomas reached on a muffed grounder to second, then stole second and scored on a passed ball.
Cooper sent the Commodores down in order in the fourth thanks in large part to an impressive play by Robert Lawrence. With two down, Lawrence charged a ball head down the left-field line, made the scoop and threw a one-hopper to first to end the inning.
Vandy managed to push a run across in the sixth on a couple of singles and an error to make it a 4-1 contest, but Ford again made a play on a grounder to prevent any further damage.
The Commodores got a two-out single in the seventh and would have cut into the deficit on a deep fly ball from center fielder Connor Harrell but Stephens made a diving catch at the wall for the final out.
McClung and Palo combined to retire the Commodores in order in the eighth, again getting help from the defense on three consecutive ground balls. Vandy got one more hit to lead off the ninth, but Palo retired the next three to seal the victory.
The win snapped a five-game skid for the Blue Raiders.