By Travis Young - Before the Commodores take the field today against Middle Tennessee, let’s give you a breakdown on how Middle Tennessee advanced to NCAA Regionals for the first time since 2004.
The 2009 Sun Belt Tournament Champions are making its 14th NCAA Regional appearance and will be the No. 2 seed in the Regional for the first time in school history. MTSU has never been higher than a No. 3 seed at Regionals. The Blue Raiders put together a sensational season, going 43-16 and sharing the regular season Sun Belt title under 22nd year head coach Steve Peterson. The 43 wins this season is a new school record. MTSU was nearly unbeatable at home this season, going 28-4 at the newly renovated Reese Smith Field. Middle Tennessee started the season winning 21 of its first 25 games.
MTSU led the conference in hitting and was second in team ERA. The Blue Raiders boast one of the top players in the nation this season, in Sun Belt Conference Player of Year, Bryce Brentz. Brentz, a Golden Spikes Semifinalist, leads the Raiders in batting average (.482) hits (106), home runs (28), doubles (19), RBI (72). Brentz’s .482 average, .968 slugging% and 28 home runs ranks first in all of Division I.
Five other Blue Raiders were named All-Sun Belt following the regular season, including senior third baseman Rawley Bishop. Bishop is a nice compliment to Brentz as his numbers speak for themselves. Bishop is hitting .404 with 14 home runs and 51 RBI. Seven of MTSU’s starting position players are batting .325 or higher.
On the mound, the Blue Raiders are led by junior lefthander Kenneth Roberts and reliever Coty Woods. Roberts, the team’s No. 1 weekend starter, earned first-team All-Sun Belt Conference honors after going 8-1, 3.12 ERA during the regular season, while Woods has a school record 14 saves this season. Roberts was named the Sun Belt Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after going 2-0 with a 2.07 ERA, including a complete game in two starts at the tournament.
MTSU will throw Roberts against the Commodores Friday, while VU will counter with Mike Minor (6-4, 3.64 ERA). It will mark the first time Roberts has faced Vanderbilt in his career.