COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – At the midway point of the regular season, Middle Tennessee baseball travels in-state for a midweek matchup at Tennessee Tech Tuesday before hosting Western Kentucky Friday – Sunday at Reese Smith Jr. field.
The Blue Raiders sit at 10-13 overall and 3-3 in conference play after taking two of three games at UAB March 25-27. Here are a few storylines to look out for.
Peyton Wigginton and Zach Keenan both sit in the top 10 in the program’s career strikeout list.
Wigginton, who has served in a swing role this season on the pitching staff, is up to 225 career strikeouts, which is tied for seventh on the list with Steve Sonneberger. With 44 games started, the left-handed pitcher out of Franklin, Tenn., also sits in seventh on the program’s list of most games started in a career.
After tying a career high with 11 strikeouts March 25 at UAB, Keenan moved up to 10th on the all-time list with 218 career strikeouts. Keenan is two strikeouts away from passing current ninth placeholder Chris Crabtree (219). Keenan, a right-hander from Suwanee, Ga., has pitched 224.1 innings over his five seasons with the Blue Raiders.
Mason Speirs holds the team lead in batting average (.373) and OPS (1.091) while tied for first with Fausto Lopez with four home runs. Speirs has played 19 games with 16 starts this season between catcher and designated hitter. Among C-USA qualifiers, Speirs ranks eighth in batting average. Approaching the halfway point of the season, the catcher from Westminster, CO, already has more hits (22) than he did combined in his two previous seasons (15).
MT’s bats have scored 10-or-more runs in a game four times this season, including a 13-run performance in the most recent game vs. Old Dominion. The Blue Raiders have scored in bunches in those games, scoring 11 runs in their final two innings vs. Old Dominion March 20, eight runs in the first two innings at Auburn March 11, seven runs in the final two innings vs. Western Carolina March 2 and an 11-run seventh inning vs. Illinois Feb. 26. All of those games have resulted in Blue Raider wins.
Fausto Lopez, Brett Coker and J.T. Mabry have started all 23 games for the Blue Raiders this season in their respective positions. Lopez carries a streak of 94 consecutive starts in a Blue Raider uniform over the past three seasons. Lopez needs 26 more starts in a row to crack the top 10 program list for consecutive games played.
LOOKING AT THE GOLDEN EAGLES Tennessee Tech won its first 10 games before dropping four of its next five away from home against Auburn and Southeastern Louisiana. Since then, the Golden Eagles won their series at East Tennessee State with two extra-inning wins, beat North Alabama in a midweek game March 22 and dropped two of three to Bradley at home this past weekend.
TTU is 15-7 overall and 8-3 at home this season. At the plate, the Golden Eagles are batting .319 with an on-base percentage of .413, a slugging percentage of .537 and 43 home runs.
As far as common opponents with the Blue Raiders, Tennessee Tech defeated South Alabama 11-7 Feb. 20 but fell to Auburn 3-4 March 9 and Lipscomb 7-21 March 15.
Ed Johnson is hitting .441 in 102 trips to the plate this season with seven doubles, six home runs and 26 RBI. Jason Hinchman has hit 10 of the 43 Golden Eagle home runs through 22 games.
Probable starter Carter Gannaway is 2-1 with a 7.88 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 16 innings pitched. Frankie Cresta, Eric Newsom and Tyler Sylvester all have a sub-three ERA in a combined 24 innings pitched out of the bullpen.
Brock Meyers is second on the team with 24 strikeouts and is 3-1 in eight appearances in relief.
SCOUTING WKU Western Kentucky won five consecutive games from Feb. 27 to March 5, including a 7-5 win over then-receiving votes Kentucky March 1.
As the win streak ended, the Hilltoppers lost four of their next five against Eastern Kentucky, Illinois and Belmont. WKU won its conference opener against Charlotte March 18 but has dropped six straight since then. The Hilltoppers host No. 5 Louisville March 29 before the three-game series in Murfreesboro.
Tristin Garcia and Ty Batusich are a combined 58-for-163 (.356). Hitting seven home runs, he serves as the biggest power threat in the WKU lineup. Batusich is the only Hilltopper with more than four home runs this season. Aidan Gilroy is the third WKU hitter batting over .300 as he comes into the week with a .348 average.
Devyn Terbrak and Jake Kates have each won three games for WKU but both have ERAs over five.
Friday is True Blue Night at Reese Smith Jr. field. As part of True Blue Week, fans will receive a pair of MT tie-dye socks. Saturday is the second Salute Saturday of the season as the Blue Raiders will honor current and former military members. Sunday is Kids Club Day at the ballpark.
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