Clayton Gant Solid In Relief Appearance as Tigers Edge Middle Tennessee 6-4
March 27, 2013
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Clayton Gant allowed no runs on three hits in five innings of relief and Memphis (14-11) snapped a five-game win streak by Middle Tennessee (16-11) with a 6-4 win on Wednesday at FedExPark.
Freshman Colin Lee made his first career start for the Blue and Gray and Middle Tennessee wasted no time getting on the board. A four-pitch walk followed by an errant thrown on the pickoff attempt at first had a runner on third with no out. Lee came back to strikeout the next batter, but Johnny Thomas hit a single through the left side to plate the go-ahead run. A wild pitch allowed Thomas to move to scoring position later in the inning, but Lee escaped the first inning having allowed just one run, unearned.
The Tigers answered with four runs in the bottom of the inning to take the 4-1 advantage. Two walks followed by a failed pickoff attempt had runners at first and second for the U of M and Tucker Tubbs drove both in with a RBI single to left field. A third walk in the inning put Keaton Aldridge on base and Drew Griffin drove in two more runs with a RBI single down the left field line.
Memphis had two runners in scoring position with one out in the second, but couldn't cash in on the opportunity. A hit batter and walk put two runners on and a sacrifice bunt advanced the runners to scoring position. Blue Raiders pitcher Kooper Kessler got out of the jam with a groundout and a flyout and Middle Tennessee kept the Tigers lead at 4-1.
Middle Tennessee carried momentum into the top of the third inning and loaded the bases with one out. A single followed by the second Tigers error of the game and a walk loaded the bases, but Lee battled out of the jam and induced an inning-ending double play to keep Memphis in front 4-1.
The Blue Raiders cashed in in the fourth, scoring three runs in the inning to tie the game at 4-4. Back-to-back singles got the inning started for Middle Tennessee and a wild pitch moved the runners to scoring position. A groundout RBI cut the Tigers lead to 4-2 and a RBI double by Ryan Ford made it 4-3. Ryan Stephens tied it up with a sacrifice fly to center, but Middle Tennessee stranded a runner at third to end the inning.
Memphis attempted to put together a two-out rally in the fifth, but Kessler worked out of a bases loaded jam to keep the scored knotted at 4-4. Tubbs worked a walk to start the two-out threat and Carter White followed with a single down the right field line. Austin Hatfield walked to load the bases, but Kessler forced a fly out to end the inning.
Back-to-back one out singles put runners on the corners with one out in the sixth. Ethan Gross laid down a bunt and Ford Wilson scampered home to score the go-ahead run. Zach Willis hit the second of the back-to-back singles and he scored on Bryce Beeler's RBI single to centerfield, giving Memphis the 6-4 lead.
Gant entered the game in the fifth and was dazzling from the start. The senior right-hander allowed a two-out hit in the fifth, but he followed that with seven-straight outs. Gant struck out one in each of his first two innings on the mound, but he struck out two in the seventh. Middle Tennessee got two hits off of Gant in the eighth, but Gant stranded both runners to end the frame. With four strikeouts, Gant established a career high and picked up his first win on the mound since April 17, 2011.
Memphis had two chances to increase the 6-4 lead, but Middle Tennessee stranded runners in scoring position in both the seventh and eighth innings. In the seventh, the Tigers had the bases loaded with two outs, but a fly out ended the threat. In the eighth, Zach Willis doubled to start the inning and moved to third on a fly out, but he was stranded there to end the inning.
Willis led the Tigers with two hits on the game and the Blue Raiders edged the Tigers 9-7 in the hit column. Tubbs and Griffin combined to drive in four of Memphis six runs as each collected two RBI.
Memphis plays host to No. 19 Houston in a three-game Conference USA series at FedExPark. First pitch against the Cougars is slated for 6:30 p.m. on Friday, 2:00 p.m. Saturday and 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.