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MTSU beats ULM

SPECIAL TO THE MESSENGER

TROY, Ala. – Pitcher Kenneth Roberts silenced the ULM offense as top-seeded Middle Tennessee shut down the streaking ULM Warhawks, 3-1, on Sunday Morning to take home the crown in the 2009 Sun Belt Conference Baseball Championship.

The Blue Raiders won their fourth consecutive game after dropping a 14-11 decision to Louisiana-Lafayette on Thursday afternoon. They improved to 43-16 on the season and guaranteed themselves a spot in the postseason with an automatic bid to the NCAA Regionals.

Roberts, the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, threw six innings of one-run ball, holding the Warhawks to just two baserunners through the first four innings as he retired 11 straight batters. He recorded six strikeouts, all swinging, and didn’t give ULM any free passes with walks. Roberts allowed just four hits to keep his team in the lead and earn the win on the mound.

Coty Woods continued the impressive Middle Tennessee pitching, taking over in the seventh inning and immediately striking out three straight batters to retire the side. Woods faced a pressure-packed, bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the eighth, but he kept his composure to escape the jam. He got a groundout from ULM’s Matt Collins, who had knocked in eight runs in the tournament, to end the inning unscathed.

The Blue Raiders scored all their runs in the third inning and held onto the advantage through the rest of the game despite continuing threats from the Warhawks. ULM starter Jordy Poche took the loss despite giving up just three runs on six hits in 3.2 innings. Long at-bats drove up Poche’s pitch total to 72 before his early exit. Josh Miller kept the game close with 4.1 innings of scoreless relief. He set 11 Middle Tennessee batters down in order spanning the fourth through eighth innings to give his team a chance for the comeback, but the