Middle Tennessee freshman Blake Benefield became the first Blue Raider non-pitcher ever to win a national player of the week honor following one of the most dominant power performances in recent history last weekend.
Benefield was named C-USA Player of the Week and Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week Monday after hitting .563 in four games and helping lead the Blue Raiders to a pair of road wins.
The Murfreesboro native, who prepped at Siegel High School, was 9-for-16 with two doubles, three home runs and 14 RBI in the four road games. Benefield is also the first Blue Raider baseball player to win C-USA Player of the Week this season.
“It is a tremendous accomplishment and honor for all of those types of awards,” MTSU Head Coach Jim McGuire said. “This league has been so good with so many good hitters that the C-USA Player of the Week has been far and few in-between. Even last year with (Ronnie) Jebavy and some of the really good hitters we have had, it’s not easy to win that award. To be C-USA Player of the Week and National Player of the Week by Louisville Slugger is big for him and big for the program.”
The son of Steve and Tracyann Benefield, Blake Benefield started the week with a 3-for-5 effort, including two doubles and three RBI, in a 17-3 win at Austin Peay.
It was a preview of things to come.
Benefield took his game to an even higher level in Middle Tennessee’s three-game series at Old Dominion, where he was 6-for-11 with three home runs and 11 RBI. The clutch performer knocked in nine of his 11 RBI with two outs in the ODU series.
“I have been trying to get better every day. I’m a freshman so everything is new this year and I’m just trying to learn from high school and improve,” Benefield said. “I want to thank my teammates. They are always keeping me up even when things were not going well, like they were midway through the season. Coach McGuire, Coach (Scott) Hall and Coach (Chase) Sain have really helped me out with my swing and becoming a better hitter.”
Benefield became the first MTSU Blue Raider to hit home runs in three straight games since Will Skinner did it in 2010. Benefield staked Middle Tennessee to a 2-0 leads in all three games of the ODU series after hitting two-out, first-inning bombs each game.
Benefield was 3-for-4 with a home run and seven RBI in Middle Tennessee’s 10-5 win against ODU Saturday. The seven RBI are second on the Middle Tennessee single-game list.
“You don’t see it much as far as what he accomplished from a power perspective and the RBI,” McGuire said. “The combination of the two is what put him where he is. Blake has worked very hard and has made a lot of adjustments to get where he is. It is not like it happened overnight.”
Despite facing a Top 50 schedule and playing in the third-rated baseball conference in America, Benefield has flourished in his freshman campaign. He leads Middle Tennessee and is sixth in C-USA in home runs (8), RBI (31), doubles (13), slugging percentage (.503) and his .294 batting average is third on the squad.
“I still have so much to learn,” Benefield said. “One thing I had to learn early on in college is they get a scouting report on you so after that first weekend everyone knows how to pitch me. Dad and I talked about that and constant improvement and how it’s not about how you start, but how you end. I am just trying to end the season well and try to continue improving.”
Middle Tennessee will conclude its non-conference and road schedule with a game in Nashville against Belmont Tuesday. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m.