Murfreesboro, Tenn. — Middle Tennessee starter Brad Robinson struck out a career-high 10 batters over 8.0 innings to lead the Blue Raiders to a 7-1 victory over the Western Kentucky University baseball team Thursday evening in the opener of a three-game weekend series at Reese Smith Field.
The loss dropped WKU to 23-28 overall and 13-15 in the Sun Belt Conference, while MTSU improved to 29-24 and 16-12 in the league.
MTSU got a run right away in the first when Zach Barrett singled home Matt Ray to give the Blue Raiders a quick 1-0 lead. After a pair of scoreless innings by WKU starter Bart Carter, Barrett struck again as he drove home Rawley Bishop with a double to give Middle Tennessee a two-run lead. Barrett then scored on a Grant Box single to stretch the lead to 3-0.
Robinson held WKU hitless through the first 3.2 innings, striking out six of the first nine batters he faced. Scotty Colt was able finally get the Hilltoppers into the hit column with a two-out double in fourth, but Robinson was able to work out of the inning to preserve the shutout.
A Hilltopper error at the start of the fifth inning proved costly as Ray reached to get the frame started. Carter was able to retire the next two batters, but allowed a walk to Bishop and then hit Barrett to load the bases. Adam Warren then came through with a two-run single, and Box singled home a run to stretch the MTSU lead to 6-0.
Wade Gaynor finally got WKU on the board when he led off the seventh with his fourth home run of the season — only the second Hilltopper hit of the game — to make it a 6-1 game. MTSU got that run back in the bottom of the inning as Box singled home Wayne Kendrick to extend the lead to 7-1.
That would be the final runs of the game as Robinson pitched a scoreless eighth, and Nick Marrs closed the door in the ninth.
Ray, Barrett and Box each had three hits for MTSU, with Box driving in three runs. With Gaynor, Colt, J.B. Paxson and Troy Frazier accounting for the only four WKU hits of the game.
Robinson (7-2) allowed just the one run on three hits to pick up the victory, while Carter (6-4) suffered the loss as he allowed six runs (three earned) on nine hits over his five innings.
The two teams will get back on the field for game two of the series Friday at 6 p.m. (CDT).