With first place in Conference USA on the line, Middle Tennessee (13-8, 5-1 C-USA) went to extra innings for the second day in a row and overcame a four-run deficit to defeat No. 19 Florida Atlantic, 7-6.
Sunday’s win marks the first road series win over a ranked team for the Blue Raiders as they stay unbeaten in extra-inning contests this season.
Fifth-year senior Nathan Foriest’s gritty performance on the mound kept MT alive, as the Raiders plated four runs in the ninth to force the game into extras.
In his second win, Foriest tied his career-longest outing with five innings of shutout relief and recorded five strikeouts. The southpaw began the eighth and didn’t allow a runner to advance past second base the rest of the way.
“We fell behind today and it looked like we were going to be in trouble,” head coach Jim McGuire said. “We were just trying to piece it all together and I can’t say enough about Nathan Foriest. He was tremendous today.”
Ronnie Jebavy reached base in all six plate appearances and collected a career-high three hits, including a ninth-inning RBI triple to left-center to get MT within a run. Jebavy is now hitting .545 (12-for-22) in league play and also stole his league leading 13th base.
Michael Adkins knocked in the go-ahead run on a two-out single in the 12th and also posted three hits along with Brad Jarreau, who doubled and scored a team-high three runs on the day.
Pinch-hitter Kaleb King singled to lead off the ninth and Jarreau followed with a double to right center. Austin Bryant knocked in a run on a ground out to short before Jebavy’s triple made it 6-5. Jared Allen tied it with a sacrifice fly when he lifted a fly ball just deep enough to score Jebavy.
The Blue Raiders scored first for the fourth straight game, as both teams plated a run in the first inning.
MT took its second lead of the game in the fourth when Dustin Delgado knocked in Adkins on a one-out single, making it 2-1 Raiders. Adkins had reached scoring position on a double to the right-center gap.
The lead didn’t last long though, as the first six FAU batters reached safely in the next half, leading to four runs. The Owls pushed one more across in the fifth to go up 6-2.
Reliever Kooper Kessler, the fourth of five pitchers used by McGuire, kept the FAU bats in check over 2.1 innings until Foriest took over.
The Blue Raiders out-hit the Owls 14-12, while the teams combined for six errors in the field. MT stranded nine runners and FAU left 10 on base.
Middle Tennessee begins a five-game homestand Tuesday night against No. 4 Vanderbilt. The Blue Raiders will unveil two statues during a pre-game ceremony in front of Reese Smith Jr. Field, with first pitch against the ‘Dores scheduled for 6 p.m.