Scouting report: Middle Tennessee
What happens when you lose five of your six best hitters, six of your nine everyday starters and two weekend pitchers?
Well, if your Middle Tennessee in 2011, you struggle. Big time.
The Blue Raiders just haven't gotten it together this season. They've hit some, but not enough. They've pitched okay at times. Their defense isn't great, but isn't terrible either. It's all added up to one of head coach Steve Peterson's toughest seasons in his 24 years as head coach.
The Raiders come into Tigue Moore 16-33, 7-17 in league play. That's tied for last place with ULM, two games behind UALR in the fight for the final spot in the Sun Belt Tournament. MT is just 6-18 away from Reese Smith, Jr. Field this season. They are 1-11 on the road in league play, with that single win coming at UALR.
The Raiders, however, aren't inept. They've got a few guys in the lineup that can really hurt you. Justin Guidry (distant cousin of Ron) is among the league's leaders in hits (76) and is hitting a team-leading .362. The new bats haven't bothered outfielder Will Skinner, who has hit fifteen homers and is slugging .673. Skinner has half of MT's home runs this season. No one else has more than three.
The Blue Raiders are last in the league in ERA (6.12). Middle threw their normal Friday night starter, Daniel Palo, against Tennessee on Wednesday. They'll go with lefty Cody Tollison (1-1, 7.97) tonight. The freshman will be making his first career start. Hunter Adkins is capable on Saturday despite his record (1-8, 5.96.) In fact, in his only win of the year, he was named Sun Belt Pitcher of the Week. Sunday, Eric Gilley, the team leader in wins (4-4, 5.45) gets the nod. No one from Middle has put up great numbers on the mound this year. The closest has been closer Paul Mittura (2-4, 4.40, five saves).
Defensively the Raiders rank seventh, with a respectable .967 fielding percentage. Their pitching staff has given up just 30 unearned runs this year.
Middle Tennessee closes the regular season at home next weekend against rival Western Kentucky. In order to make it into the field of eight in Monroe, they'll have to win some games against two of the league's better teams. They have the tiebreaker over ULM, but lose a tiebreaker to WKU.
All games can be heard this weekend on News/Talk 96.5 KPEL. No pregame show tonight. Pregame at 535 on Saturday and 1235 on Sunday.