Middle Tennessee has been picked to finish 10th in the Conference USA Preseason Baseball poll, as selected by the league’s 12 head coaches.
Rice was selected to finish first in the conference, while Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss were voted by the conference coaches to finish second and third, respectively.
The Blue Raiders look to bounce back from the 2016 season, as they are returning a wealth of young talent. With the experience and depth of this team, Head Coach Jim McGuire’s believes that the Blue Raiders will finish higher than predicted.
“Obviously I think we’re a lot better than where they picked us, but I feel that way every year,” said McGuire.” “We’re a year older, so I think we have a really good chance to surprise people.”
This year’s team is more focused than ever, showing great progression throughout the fall and even through the winter break.
“There’s been a lot of improvement and also the way that everyone has come back (from winter break), we had a long break, and that’s their offseason, but you can really tell they took it seriously,” stated McGuire.” “Everyone came back in great shape and healthy and ready to go. That was really important for us and that progression continued from the fall to the winter to now, we’re ready to start our spring practice.”
The Blue Raiders return their top nine batters from a season ago, along with 417 of 495 game starts from the lineup in 2016. 24 letterwinners are back for MT, including First-team All-Conference USA selection, Riley Delgado and Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American, Blake Benefield.
The first official spring practice is set to begin on Friday, all practices are open to the public.
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. Rice (5)
2. Florida Atlantic (4)
3. Southern Miss (3)
4. Old Dominion
5. Louisiana Tech
10. Middle Tennessee
(first place votes in parentheses)
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Ford Proctor, Rice (Sophomore, IF)
PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Glenn Otto, Rice (Junior, Right-hander)
P Kirk McCarty Jr. Southern Miss
P Ricardo Salinas Jr. Rice
P Casey Sutton Sr. Louisiana Tech
RP Glenn Otto Jr. Rice
C Brent Diaz Jr. Louisiana Tech
IF Taylor Braley Jr. Southern Miss
IF Dylan Burdeaux Sr. Southern Miss
IF Brett Netzer Jr. Charlotte
IF Ford Proctor So. Rice
IF Logan Sherer Sr. Charlotte
OF Jesse Baker Sr. UTSA
OF T.J. Nichting Sr. Charlotte
OF Charlie Warren Sr. Rice
DH/UT Sean Labsan Sr. Florida Atlantic
DH/UT Jonathan Washam Sr. Louisiana Tech