GoBlueRaiders.com THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE OF MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE UNIVERSITY ATHLETICS

Injuries Shuffling Raiders Lineup

Squad hosts Sun Belt leader Louisiana-Monroe this weekend

March 29, 2007 · MT Media Relations
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Despite a plethora of season-ending injuries and the everyday bumps and bruises associated with playing half of a 56-game schedule, this year's Middle Tennessee baseball team has continued to battle and even surprise, posting a 6-3 mark in Sun Belt play and winning all three conference series thus far this year.

Head coach Steve Peterson and the Blue Raiders have suffered an uncommon amount of season-ending in juries since halfway through last season, including four year-ending surgeries this calendar year and a fifth likely in the coming weeks.

"We haven't even gotten through half the season and I've played eight different guys in leftfield, so that's an indication of the injuries and the shuffling we've had to do," Peterson said. "I'm catching what should be our second and third guys and now they're one and two. That's just the way it is, but I'm really proud of the way Drew Robertson and Grant Box have handled the pitching staff.

"Taylor Dennis made the team as a reserve infielder, a utility guy, and he has had to step in and be our starting second baseman. I've had to take our starting second baseman and move him over to shortstop. What's really been good has been the outstanding defense at third base by Zach Barrett because we didn't know what was going to happen there. We do have athletes. Being able to take Myles Ervin and put him in leftfield is a big plus.

"We're just mixing and matching. We have to have some experienced pitchers step up, guys like Matt Scott, Horseman, Copeland, Marrs, Anderson. They have to find another gear. They have to get doing what they've done in the past or they've got to something they haven't done [at Middle Tennessee] before. They have to start getting some quality outs," Peterson said.

Pitcher Langdon Stanley began the series of arm injuries last April after a weekend series against Western Kentucky. The righthander had season-ending surgery shortly thereafter and his target date for a return to the mound is in the next month.

Transfer Zach Dean was next, undergoing a season-ending procedure in the fall and redshirting for the 2007 season. Dean came to Middle Tennessee with his ailment.

Next came sophomore pitcher Chad Edwards, who underwent knee surgery in January and will miss the entire year, adding to a lack of depth in the starting rotation for the Blue Raiders. Edwards suffered his injury in a non-baseball related activity over Christmas break.

Junior Nathan Hines was injured during preseason practice in January and underwent a season-ending procedure at the end of Febraury and junior Alex Watson went down with the same arm injury after just three games and has also been knocked out after a season-ending procedure.

Hines and Watson were both expected to be starters for Middle Tennessee, Hines returning to centerfield after not being able to play in the outfield in 2006 but serving as the designated hitter and Watson replacing two-year starter Michael McKenry behind the plate.

Senior Will Hulsey also went underwent a procedure just before the season started and should be available in the next two weeks.

The in-season injuries this year have forced Peterson to adjust his starting lineup on several occasions. Senior Matt Ray separated his shoulder two weeks ago at Troy and returned to the lineup this past weekend at Arkansas State, but in the outfield instead of his usual place at shortstop.

Ray's injury put senior Wayne Kendrick at shortstop and redshirt sophomore Taylor Dennis at second base. Dennis had just nine career at-bats and one start before this season.

Redshirt sophomore Rawley Bishop has missed a pair of games because of a troublesome leg injury, while junior Zach Barrett left last Saturday's game at Arkansas State after fouling a ball off the in-step of his right foot.

Peterson has started seven freshmen or redshirt freshmen this season, with those players totaling 79 starts. Blake McDade has started all but three games, driving in 21 runs, while Drew Robertson has assumed perhaps the toughest position, taking over the everyday catching duties and doing a more than adequate job behind the plate.

Middle Tennessee hosts league-leading Louisiana-Monroe this weekend at Reese Smith Field starting Friday at 6 p.m.

Follow the Blue Raiders on Twitter @MTAthletics for continued updates.