Five Baseball Raiders Earn All-SBC

May 24, 2005 · MT Media Relations
MIAMI, Fla. - Middle Tennessee landed five players on the All-Sun Belt Conference baseball team, including three first-team selections, as announced by the league office Tuesday.

Blue Raider junior Todd Martin, a transfer from the University of Tennessee, was named the Sun Belt's Newcomer of the Year and was the first-team designated hitter, while pitcher Matt Scott and catcher Michael McKenry, both sophomores, also earned first-team accolades.

Middle Tennessee shortstop Jeff Beachum, a junior, and senior third baseman Nate Jaggers were second-team selections. Middle Tennessee's five selections represented the second-most on the squad, behind regular-season champion Louisiana-Lafayette's nine performers.

"I'm proud of all of these players and they certainly are deserving of the recognition," Middle Tennessee head coach Steve Peterson said. "All of these players, as well as several others, have made significant contributions to our team success this season."

Middle Tennessee, which opens tournament play against New Mexico State Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. ET, as the No. 4 seed, is 33-12 in the month of the May since the start of 2003 and will send its ace, Scott, to the hill in the opener.

Scott, a three-time SBC Pitcher of the Week, was 9-1 with a 3.18 ERA during the regular season. The Blue Raiders are 11-2 in his 13 starts, including 7-1 in the opening game of each conference series. The redshirt sophomore spent all of last season pitching out of the Blue Raider bullpen before establishing himself as the ace in 2005.

"It's a great feeling (to earn first-team All-SBC)," Scott said. "I knew what I was capable of and the past four or five starts I've been locating exceptionally well and getting hitters to chase. That's basically how I've been so successful. I just try to go out there and get as deep into the game as I can."

Scott has three complete games and has worked into the seventh inning in 10 of his starts this season.

"He is a difference-maker and he's head and shoulders above others on the staff," Peterson said. "He's the ace. He's the horse. He has exceeded our expectations, obviously, and he's one of the best in the Sun Belt. He is the best competitor on the field the day he pitches. I think he inspires others and he is consistent."

Martin started the season as Middle Tennessee's center fielder but an elbow injury early in the year prevented him from playing the field. He became the team's designated hitter and has become one of the nation's top performers in that area with an SBC-best .429 batting average, which is among the Top 20 in the nation.

"When the injuries occurred I could have been mad and just quit, but I focused on what I can do, which is swing the bat," Martin said. "I concentrated on that and tried to help the team as best I could. I'm very grateful to be named Newcomer of the Year. It's a very good honor in a league with so many quality players."

Peterson said Middle Tennessee fans still have not seen the best Martin has to offer.

"He makes a difference when he's in our lineup," Peterson said. "He has solidified the No. 2 spot in our order. The thing about Todd is how he handled the hand dealt him. He did not transfer to Middle Tennessee to be our designated hitter. Opponents and fans have not seen the best he has to give. A lesser person would not be able to do this at all."

McKenry burst onto the scene as one of the team's top clutch performers in his first full season as a starter. The solid catcher is hitting .329 with 13 home runs and 41 RBIs. The 13 home runs are tied for the team lead, but McKenry is more pleased with the job he has done behind the plate, rather than the offensive prowess he has displayed at it.

"Coach 'Pete' always talks about working with the pitching staff and let the hitting come," McKenry said. "I've spent this year focusing on the pitching staff and that's worked out well. That was my main objective from day one. I really wanted to help the team in that area."

Peterson said McKenry has excelled with Middle Tennessee's inexperienced staff, while also being a consistent performer from an offensive standpoint.

"He's probably done better than any sophomore catcher we have had here as far as taking the responsibility of handling this young pitching staff," Peterson said. "He is an offensive player but he is starting to understand catching a shutout is greater than anything he can do offensively. They have the Johnny Bench Award now for college catchers and if he keeps progressing, he will be on that Watch List."

Jaggers earned All-Conference honors for the first time in his career after hitting a solid .355 and leading the team with 56 RBIs. His 13 home runs are tied for the team lead and are tied for fifth in the Sun Belt.

Beachum earned All-Conference honors for the second time in as many seasons. The junior is hitting .347 with 39 RBIs entering tournament play Wednesday and has helped solidify the top-fielding defense in the Sun Belt Conference and one of the best fielding teams in the nation.

2005 All-Sun Belt Conference
First Team

SP - Austin Faught, Sr., Louisiana-Lafayette
SP - Matt Scott, So., Middle Tennessee
RP - Adam Wood, Sr., South Alabama
C - Michael McKenry, So., Middle Tennessee
1B - Geoff Desmond, Sr., Arkansas State
2B - Brett Kinning, Jr., Arkansas State
SS - Chris Rich, Sr., Arkansas State
3B - Dallas Morris, Sr., Louisiana-Lafayette
OF - Yahmed Yema, Sr., Florida International
OF - Mark Aranda, Sr., New Mexico State
OF - Dennis Diaz, Sr., Florida International
DH - Todd Martin, Jr., Middle Tennessee
UT - Micah Cockrell, Sr., Louisiana-Lafayette

Second Team
SP - Kevin Ardoin, Sr., Louisiana-Lafayette
SP - David Asher, Sr., Florida International
RP - Frank Gonzalez, Jr., Florida International
C - Tommy Bryant, Sr., Arkansas-Little Rock
1B - Phillip Hawke, Sr., Louisiana-Lafayette
2B - Justin Merendino, Sr., Louisiana-Lafayette
SS - Jeff Beachum, Jr., Middle Tennessee
3B - Nate Jaggers, Sr., Middle Tennessee
OF - Brandon Bowser, So., New Orleans
OF - John Coker, Sr., Louisiana-Lafayette
OF - Josh Landry, Sr., Louisiana-Lafayette
DH - Jonathan Lucroy, Fr., Louisiana-Lafayette
UT - Matt Ransdell, Jr., Western Kentucky

Player of the Year: Yahmed Yema, Florida International
Pitcher of the Year: Austin Faught, Louisiana-Lafayette
Newcomer of the Year: Todd Martin, Middle Tennessee
Freshman of the Year: Luke Hopkins, New Mexico State
Ron Maestri Coach of the Year: Tony Robichaux, Louisiana-Lafayette

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