Story and photo by Stephen Smith / Staff Writer
It’s that time of year again as baseball is back for the 2017 Blue Raider club this Friday. The team is predicted to finish 10th in Conference USA this year, but with returning young talent mixed with the senior leadership, this squad could be more in the mix than expected.
The lineup this season is familiar to most, as MTSU seemingly lost no players from last year’s roster. Being able to return their top nine guys at the plate is something standout shortstop Riley Delgado is especially excited about.
“It’s huge having those guys come back and to build off of last year and what we did right,” Delgado said. “Having those guys back is huge for what we’re trying to do moving forward.”
The smooth-swinging shortstop returns for his senior season after having a breakout season in 2016. Delgado ranked nineteenth nationally with a batting average [.388] and was 22nd nationally in on-base percentage [.492].
But when left up to Delgado, his role off the field is just as important.
“I just want to set an example for the new guys and the young guys,” said Delgado.
As the season progresses, expect some guys to fall in line with Delgado in regards to high play.
A few names to watch for at the plate could be Blake Benefield, Kevin Sullivan, Drew Huff, and Brad Jarreau.
Besides the bats, the pitching staff looks to take leaps and bounds as they grow a year and have some powerful arms coming from junior colleges throughout the state.
Tyler Hasper is a 6-foot, 195-pound right handed pitcher from Heartland Community College. Hasper has a bulldog mentality and looks to get ahead in the count. His 1.41 ERA last season ranked second nationally amongst junior colleges.
Hasper said he is excited for the opportunity to help the pitching staff grow this year as they look to improve on their 20-35 from a season ago.
“We lost some of our arms last year, and I’m hoping to solidify a weekend spot and do anything to help the team out,” Hasper said.
If Hasper has the opportunity to contribute to this year’s rotation, he could be a nice mix to along with Jake Wyrick who looks to have another strong year. Wyrick works well throughout the game and seems to have swing and miss stuff. Wyrick started 13 games last year out of his 15 appearances.
With the mixture of a strong 1-2 combination at the top of the bullpen, as well as the fact that the team will put runs on the board, don’t be surprised if this Raiders team turns heads this spring.