Blue Raiders Host ULL to Close out Regular Season

May 5, 2006 · MT Media Relations
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Middle Tennessee softball will close out the regular season on Saturday and Sunday when the Blue Raiders host Sun Belt leader and 15th ranked Louisiana-Lafayette at Blue Raider Field. Sunday will also be senior day.

Middle Tennessee is currently in third place in the Sun Belt race with a record of 6-6 and an overall record of 19-37-1. Louisiana-Lafayette is 9-3 in the Sun Belt and holding onto first place with an overall record of 42-10. Should the Blue Raiders take two or more games from the Ragin-Cajuns' this weekend, Middle Tennessee would have a chance to play spoiler as it would deny ULL its sixth straight regular season crown.

The Blue Raiders have won two of the four Sun Belt series they have played this season. Middle Tennessee won its first Sun Belt series by taking two games at North Texas, then came back the next week and took two games from Troy at the newly renovated Blue Raider softball facility on April 22-23. The big wins, including taking one game from Western Kentucky and Florida International, set up the Blue Raiders for a monster weekend.

Middle Tennessee was tabbed last in the Sun Belt preseason poll and not one Blue Raider player was named to the Sun Belt preseason All-Conference list. Now, the Blue Raiders have a legitimate Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year candidate in Shelby Stiner and four other Blue Raiders vying for spots on the Sun Belt All-Conference teams.

As a team, Middle Tennessee has truly stepped it up in Sun Belt Conference play. In Sun Belt only games, the Blue Raiders lead the conference with a .279 team batting average.

The Blue Raiders are led by three juniors. Muriel Ledbetter and Melissa Weiland are completing their third year on the squad. Stiner is the newcomer to the group and has already made her mark on the Middle Tennessee program, as well as the Sun Belt.

Stiner ranks second in the Sun Belt and leads the club with a .352 batting average. Her 16 stolen bases ranks her fourth in the Sun Belt and also leads the team, she also becomes the first Blue Raider player in three years to record 16 stolen bases. With 57 hits this season, Stiner ranks third in the Sun Belt and leads the Blue Raiders. Her 57 hits is also good for eighth place in the Blue Raider record books for hits in a season. Stiner has also belted five homeruns this season and ranks second on the team with 23 runs scored.

Ledbetter owns two single-season records for the Blue Raiders. Against Austin Peay, earlier in the season, she broke the record for homeruns in a season with 11. Ledbetter also broke her own record for walks in a season as she has now racked up 30 walks in 2006. She also leads the Sun Belt and the team in doubles with 17 and leads the team in RBI with 32. Her .335 batting average is third-best in the Sun Belt and is second-best on the team.

Weiland has really stepped it up in conference play. The Murfreesboro native's .432 batting average in Sun Belt only games leads the league as does her 19 hits in conference only games. Overall, Weiland's 19 RBI ranks her second on the team as does her six homeruns.

Middle Tennessee has also benefited from the return of freshman hurler Laura Moore who had missed almost a month due to an injury. Moore returned to the lineup prior to the Blue Raider's match-up with North Texas in early April. Since her return, Middle Tennessee has a record of 8-7 and 5-4 in the Sun Belt. Moore has picked up four wins on the mound for the Blue Raiders including two key conference games.

Samantha Floyd has probably been the biggest surprise. The freshman first baseman has also worked her self into the pitching rotation in recent weeks. She has an overall record of 2-3, but the biggest number is a 2-0 mark in Sun Belt games. Floyd has a 1.68 ERA against conference opponents in 16.2 innings of work allowing just four earned runs.

Middle Tennessee will have to put together a strong game against Louisiana-Lafayette. The Ragin Cajuns have three of the nation's top homerun hitters in Danyele Gomez, Lacey Bertucci and Ashley Evans. ULL also has two 20-plus game winners in pitchers Ashley Kirchberg and Krystal Lewallen; however Lewallen has struggled as of late in Sun Belt Conference games. Leweallen, a senior transfer, is credited with all three Sun Belt loses Louisiana-Lafayette has suffered this season, the most for a ULL team since 2003.

The Blue Raiders need offensive power this weekend and Middle Tennessee has lacked that in the two school's last 10 meetings. In the last 10 games against Middle Tennessee and ULL, the Blue Raiders have been shutout seven times and scored a total of eight runs in those 10 games. In last season's four-game series, Middle Tennessee failed to score a run.

After hosting its final home series of the season, Middle Tennessee prepares for the Sun Belt Tournament which will be held in Miami, Florida at Florida International. The tournament is set to begin on May 11 and run through May 13.

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