HUNTINGTON, W. Va. – MTSU heads into another weekend of Conference USA play in first place.
The Blue Raiders (23-17, 14-4 C-USA) have dominated the weekend in conference play. They have won five of their six weekend series in conference play, including sweeps of Alabama-Birmingham, Old Dominion and Charlotte.
Next up in conference play for MTSU is Marshall. The Thundering Herd (13-26, 6-12 C-USA) are currently near the bottom of the conference standings, but they have won their past two series in conference play, taking two of three from both ODU and Charlotte. They are coming off a loss to in-state rival West Virginia.
MTSU is coming off yet another midweek loss. The Blue Raiders lost a 4-0 decision to No. 8 Vanderbilt Tuesday, snapping their six-game win streak. It was their second loss to the Commodores this season. The loss dropped MTSU to 1-9 in midweek games.
The matchup between the two schools will reunite three former Columbia State Community College standouts: TJ Diffenderfer (Marshall), Ronnie Jebavy (MTSU) and Dustin Delgado (MTSU). The trio were all teammates at Columbia State for one season. Diffenderfer and Jebavy have become two of C-USA’s best hitters.
Diffenderfer is Marshall’s most lethal hitter. The Mount Juliet native leads the Thundering Herd with a .329 batting average, and his .369 average in C-USA games is fourth in the conference. Marshall’s first baseman also leads the team in home runs (4) and RBI (27).
Jebavy is one of the best hitters in C-USA. He is top-10 in the conference in several categories: batting average (fourth), slugging percentage (fourth), on-base percentage (10th) and hits (second). Jebavy is also the conference’s top base stealer, swiping 20 bases so far this season.
The three-game series could see a lot of strikeouts on both sides. The Blue Raiders are the worst offenders of the strikeout in C-USA, leading the conference with 319. The Thundering Herd struggle to make consistent contact with the ball as well, ranking third in C-USA with 273 whiffs.
Three Blue Raiders are in the top-7 for most strikeouts in C-USA: Jake Ingold (first), Jared Allen (second) and Kevin Dupree (seventh).
Johnathan Frebis, Nate Hoffmann and Tyler Troutt are the projected starters for MTSU. Frebis (4-4, 4.21 ERA) has been stout in his last two outings, giving up no more than three earned runs in either of his last two appearances.
Hoffmann (3-1, 3.14 ERA) has been MTSU’s best starter. The right-hander has allowed opposing hitters to hit just .223 against him in 51.2 innings pitched. Troutt (0-2, 4.66 ERA) has yet to win a game this season.
Chase Boster, JD Hammer and Michael Taylor are projected to start of the Thundering Herd. Boster (4-0, 1.88 ERA) will be making just his sixth start of the year, but he has been strong in his starts. Boster has allowed just six earned runs in 28.2 innings, and threw a career-high 8.1 innings in a win at ODU in his last start. Opponents are hitting just .210 off the right-hander.
Hammer (1-3, 4.07 ERA) picked up his first win of the season against ODU as he tied his career-high for innings pitched with 7.1. Taylor (1-4, 3.54 ERA) has been a strikeout machine for the Thundering Herd. The right-hander has struck out a team-high 41 batters 40.2 innings on the mound.
The series will begin on Friday at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston, W. Va. First pitch for Friday’s game is slated for 1 p.m. CST.
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