Middle Tennessee coach Jim McGuire and the Blue Raiders are gearing up for the 2015 season as they open their road schedule on Feb. 13 against Jacksonville.
MTSU had an underwhelming conclusion last season, finishing with a 31-27 record on the season and a fourth place finish in Conference-USA after a loss to Old Dominion in the C-USA Championship.
The Blue Raiders will be looking to turn things around with a large number of newcomers and some key returning players.
The Blue Raiders will have to fill a void in their rotation with the departure of First-Team All C-USA pitcher Zac Curtis.
Curtis went 9-3 with a 1.89 ERA and 136 strike outs, while adding five complete games and two shutouts in 2014.
Curtis was taken in the sixth round, No. 180-overall, by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2014 Major League Baseball Draft, making him the fifth-highest MTSU player ever taken in the draft.
Middle Tennessee will also look to replace the middle-of-the-order production that Third-Team All-American and First-Team C-USA first baseman Trent Miller added. Miller batted .339, while tallying five home runs, 45 runs batted in and 25 doubles in 2014.
The clearest replacement for Miller’s production looks to be senior outfielder Jared Allen. Allen hit .257 and posted 10 homeruns, 33 RBI, 11 doubles and eight stolen bases last season.
Allen’s production was good enough to earn him a spot as a First-Team All C-USA selection. Allen is the only player for Middle Tennessee to earn a spot as a 2015 preseason all-conference selection.
Middle Tennessee has three key returning seniors in Dustin Delgado, Austin Bryant and Michael Adkins.
Delgado had a .306 batting average, .405 on-base percentage, 12 doubles and 30 RBI in 2014. Bryant had a .286 average, .382 on-base percentage, 12 doubles and 25 runs batted in last season.
Adkins compiled a .286 average, .360 on-base percentage, six doubles and 22 runs batted in.
It could prove to be more difficult for the Blue Raiders to find a replacement at the top of the rotation as no one came close to Curtis’ numbers.
The Blue Raiders have a solid left-handed starter returning for his senior season in Jonathan Frebis.
Frebis posted a 4-6 record with a 4.07 earned run average, 49 strike outs and two complete games in 2014.
Frebis provided the second-most innings pitched on the team last season with 77.1, but was still far from Curtis’ mark of 114 innings pitched.
With so many glaring holes in their lineup and rotation, the Blue Raiders may have to count on some newcomers to step up in 2015.
Middle Tennessee has a few JUCO transfers that could make some contributions this year.
The Blue Raiders added 6-foot-2 outfielder Ronnie Jebavy from Columbia State Community College, and 233-pound infielder/catcher Austin Norrell from Walters State Community College.
MTSU has also brought in two junior college transfer pitchers in the form of Nate Hoffman and Sam Alton from Madison College and Canada College, respectively.
To further help their rotation, the Blue Raiders are bringing in a talented freshman in left-handed infielder/pitcher Blake Stansberry from South Doyle H.S. (Knoxville, Tenn.).
Even with the losses the Blue Raiders suffered on their roster, MTSU still looks to challenge for a C-USA Championship.
Middle Tennessee is projected to finish eighth in Conference-USA, which would give them a chance to compete in the C-USA Tournament.
For more Blue Raider sports, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter at @Sidelines_Sport.
To contact sports editor Connor Grott, email email@example.com.