May 29, 2009

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Meinhart is main man for MTSU

By Jimmy Jones

Special to

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders came out of the gate swinging with a four-run first inning on the strength of a grand slam home run by Stuart Meinhart (right) and held on for a 5-4 win over Mike Minor and the Vanderbilt Commodores in the opening round of the NCAA Louisville Regional at Jim Patterson Stadium.
Blake McDade got the Raiders going with a one-out single and was moved over on a base hit by the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year Bryce Brent. Rawley Bishop worked his way on with a walk to set up Meinhart's big fly to right to make the score 4-0.
VU pecked away at the lead with two runs in the top of the fourth when Curt Casali was hit by a pitch and Aaron Westlake, the SEC regular season batting champion, followed with a double down the right field line. Catcher Andrew Giobbi scored Casali with a ground ball out and Jason Esposito knocked in the second run of the game for the Commodores (34-26) with an RBI single on the first pitch he saw.
Middle Tennessee (44-16) got a run back in the seventh on a one-handed fly ball that cleared the fence in left field just inside the foul pole by Taylor Dennis; his fourth of the season, to stretch the score back out to 5-2.
"When Taylor Dennis hits a home run you aren't supposed to get beat," MTSU coach Steve Peterson said. "There is something in the air when he gets one out. He is not hitting ninth for nothing."
The Commodores came right back with two runs in the eighth on a Westlake leadoff single for his 25th multi-hit game of the season, and he was moved to third on a Giobbi double. Esposito recorded his second RBI of the game with a productive out. VU head coach Tim Corbin called on Jordon Wormsley to pinch hit for Joe Loftus and he delivered a ground ball RBI to pull to with in 5-4.
MTSU reliever Coty Woods gave up a leadoff double to Jonathan White, to extend his hitting streak to nine games to lead off the Vanderbilt ninth and walked Giobbi and Casali, but worked his way out of a bases-loaded situation by getting Jason Esposito to ground out to deep third base to end the game.
"Baseball is a game of inches and we just came up a little short in this game," White said. "We had our opportunities and hit some balls hard but we just didn't get it done today.
"That's baseball. It can be a humbling game. We just have to come out and play better ball tomorrow."
MTSU starter Kenneth Roberts (11-1) was masterful in seven complete innings of work. He allowed just six hits and three earned runs. Woods gave up two hits in two innings and allowed one earned run to pick up the save.
Minor (6-5) (right), a pre-season All-American pick by the, allowed four hits in the first inning and then just six the rest of the way. He tossed his third complete game in his last four starts in the loss.
Vanderbilt plays the loser of the Indiana-Louisville game at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
MTSU takes on the winner at 7 p.m.