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MTSU Blue Raiders blast past No. 8 FAU

The No. 1 Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders used a dominant pitching performance from ace Kenneth Roberts to pick up a 12-2 win over No. 8 Florida Atlantic in the first round of the 2009 Sun Belt Conference Baseball Championship Wednesday afternoon at Riddle-Pace Field.

The Blue Raider offense exploded for 12 runs in the mercy-rule shortened game.

The game was called in the bottom of the seventh inning because of the 10-run rule.

Roberts pitched threw a complete game, giving up two runs on seven hits.

“All in all, it was a very solid first win where we didn’t have to use a lot of pitchers and Kenny definitely pitched like a top pitcher in college baseball,” MTSU head coach Steve Peterson said.

MTSU’s offense provided Roberts with plenty of back up, scoring runs in five of the seven innings played.

MTSU got off to a hot start, scoring four runs in the first inning.

“To get off to a four-run lead the first game of the tournament is a great advantage,” Peterson said. “It gives you a great opportunity to relax your players.”

The big hit of the inning was a double by Blake McDade. McDade drilled the ball down the left field line and it fell in front of the glove of FAU left fielder Colby Gratton to drive in two runs and give MTSU a 3-0 advantage.

Center fielder Nathan Hines added two more runs with a two-RBI double in the bottom of the third inning to put MTSU up 6-0.

The game was called in the bottom of the seventh inning after catcher Drew Robertson doubled to center field to plate MTSU’s final two runs of the game.

McDade and Hines led MTSU with three RBIs each, while third baseman Rawley Bishop went 4-for-5 at the plate.

FAU’s Travis Ozga hit a solo homer in the fourth to score FAU’s first run of the game. The other Owl run came on a single by Mike Albaladejo in the seventh inning.

FAU starter Barry Rooks lasted just 3.2 innings, giving up five earned runs and two unearned runs and walking seven.

“We did it at Florida Atlantic’s expense,” Peterson said. “They had walks and we had cheap hits. We took advantage of their walks and mistakes.”

FAU head coach John McCormack agreed that his team’s mistakes were a key factor in the MTSU win.

“They did a nice job of capitalizing on our mistakes, whether it be errors or walks or other situations,” McCormack said. “They certainly made the plays when they needed to.”

The Blue Raiders will face No. 5 Louisiana-Lafayette in the winner’s bracket today at 4 p.m.

FAU will play No. 4 Florida International in an elimination game today at 9 a.m.

Click here for a photo gallery of Wednesday’s action