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Blue Raiders storm back to force second game

Middle Tennessee erupted for eight runs in the seventh inning to pull off a 17-8 come-from-behind victory against Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns and stay alive in the 2009 Sun Belt Conference Baseball Championship.

The win marked the first time this season the Blue Raiders have defeated the Cajuns, and it spoiled Louisiana’s untouched run through the conference tournament.

The top-seeded Blue Raiders plated five runs before a single out was recorded in the decisive inning, working four separate Cajuns pitchers for seven hits.

It took until the fourth inning for Middle Tennessee to light up the scoreboard, but they tallied at least one run in each of the next five innings to roll to victory. The Blue Raiders drilled four home runs as part of a 17-hit performance, including 11 extra-base hits.

Nathan Hines led the way with four hits and four RBI, and Rawley Bishop went 3-for-5 with three runs scored for the Middle Tennessee.

The Blue Raiders relied heavily on their bullpen when Brett Wilson made an early exit after giving up four runs on six hits through 1.2 innings. Coty Woods picked up the win as four relievers combined to throw 7.1 relief innings, holding Louisiana to four runs and five hits.

The Cajuns struck first with three consecutive singles from the bottom of the lineup in the second inning that put eventual run-scorers on base. Louisiana racked up five hits in the frame, led by a two-RBI double from Alex Fuselier.

The Blue Raiders began to chip away at the Cajuns’ lead with a two-run homer from Bryce Brentz in the fourth that brought Rawley Bishop home. They pulled within one in the following inning when Zach Dean slugged his second homer of the tournament.

Louisiana pushed the lead right back to four in the second half of the fifth as Scott Hawkins knocked a two-run shot of his own over the outfield wall. Kyle Olasin drove in Tyler Benzel from first base for the final score of the inning as he legged out a triple.

But Hines sparked the Blue Raiders with a solo shot to kick off a 12-run rally that spanned the sixth and seventh innings. Justin Guidry collected an RBI in a pinch-hit at-bat as he singled to the gap between second and third, and Taylor Dennis drove in two runs with a base hit up the middle in the sixth before Middle Tennessee exploded with the offensive onslaught in the seventh. Three of the Blue Raiders’ four sixth-inning runs came with two outs on the board.

The two teams will square off in a rematch Saturday morning at a time to be determined to decide which squad will play in the championship contest later that day. The first pitch of the title game is scheduled for 2 p.m.