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Baseball Opens Fall Camp

September 17, 2004 · MT Media Relations
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Middle Tennessee head coach Steve Peterson and the Blue Raiders opened fall practice this week with more than 40 players and a lot of fresh faces, scrimmaging Tuesday and Wednesday before working out indoors Thursday because of the rain.

"We have a lot of new faces," Peterson said. "This is a very wide-open fall practice in the sense that we have to fill a bunch of spots from last year's club. We went from one of the worst pitching staffs in the league to the best last year, and we want to continue that strong effort. We had our first look at the staff this week, as most worked in the scrimmages the first two days."

The Blue Raiders lost all three weekend starters from last year - Chris Mobley (draft), John Williams (graduation) and BJ Church (dismissed) - as well as bullpen stalwarts Danny Borne (transfer) and Travis Horschel (did not return). Also, Shay Horseman underwent Tommy John surgery in August and will not be available until the 2006 season.

"We'll have to totally revamp the pitching staff, and first you look to the returning members of the staff. Then the new guys will fill in around them."

Returning for the Blue Raiders on the mound is seniors Steve Kline and Eric Blevins, juniors Chase Swing and Jeff Kasser, and redshirt sophomore Matt Scott. The five combined to throw 169.0 innings last season, or 31 percent, with a record of 12-5 and 11 saves.

The infield looks much more promising, with returning starters in the middle infield as well as experience on the corners and behind the plate. Junior Jeff Beachum and senior Eric McNamee return at shortstop and second base, respectively, while seniors Josh Archer and Nate Jaggers will man the corner spots. Sophomore Michael McKenry takes over behind the plate after making 20 starts in 2004.

"We will be a very solid club defensively in the infield. Whoever plays first base has to hit, whether for power or average, because we need an RBI guy there," Peterson said. "Derek Phillips really stepped into that role last year and was a huge plus."

The outfield situation for the Blue Raiders is a little stickier, with the departures of Shane Kemp and Chuck Akers to graduation. Junior Marcus Taylor has 73 starts in two seasons, while senior Chris LeGuenec has always been a solid bat. Newcomers Nathan Hines, Doug Birkofer and Todd Martin will battle a host of others for time in the outfield.

"The outfield is wide open and very competitive. There are a lot of doors to open this fall and someone will step up, someone no one else is thinking about right now," Peterson added. "Someone has to do that in the outfield or pitching wise for us to be successful in the spring."

The Blue Raiders will continue practice next week and conclude the fall season with the annual Blue-White Series, scheduled for October 7-10 at Reese Smith Field.

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