GoBlueRaiders.com is previewing the 2012 Middle Tennessee baseball season, which is set to begin on Friday at Reese Smith Jr. Field. Today, we focus on the outfield.
In recent years, the Middle Tennessee baseball team has produced a strong number of outfielders, placing at least one player on an All-Sun Belt Team every season since 2008 and producing a number of MLB First Year Player Draft selections.
If that legacy is to continue in 2012, a lot of the responsibility will like fall on Preseason All-Sun Belt selection Justin Guidry. The senior has split time between outfield and first base over his career, but he's set to make a permanent move to left field.
"Guidry had a pretty good season last year, and we think he can have another one this season," head coach Steve Peterson said. "He's a guy with a lot of talent, and if we can, we want to leave him strictly in left field."
Guidry is coming off a 2011 that saw him start all 55 games, batting .349 with four home runs, 32 runs batted in and 39 scored. However, his best year came in 2010, when he hit .389 on the way to earning First Team All-SBC honors.
The regular centerfielder will likely be Ryan Stephens, who played outstanding defense in 2011. The Murfreesboro native played 44 games, starting 31, and came on strong offensively towards the end of the season, coming up a single short of the cycle in a win against Tennessee and scoring four runs.
Stephens finished hitting .252 from the plate with 14 runs scored, 13 RBI and two homers.
In right, Trent Miller is slated to replace 2011 SBC home run leader Will Skinner, who currently plays in the Atlanta Braves farm system. After hitting three homers in 28 games as a freshman last year, Peterson believes Miller has what it takes to replace some of Skinner's power.
"Miller is a guy who can hit five to 10 home runs and hit in the clean-up spot," Peterson said. "So much of it will depend on how he handles opposing pitchers. He's really improved in the outfield, and I plan on starting him in right."
Miller finished 2011 with a .280 batting average with eight doubles and 11 runs batted in.
Matthew Drake had an injury-plagued season last year, but will probably figure into the outfield rotation as well as designated hitter. The senior hit .261 with 13 RBI and 13 runs in his first year in Murfreesboro after transferring from Wallace-Hanceville Community College.
Jordan Rorex is the last of the returners. The Clinton, Tenn., native hit .130 last year with 12 walks, but the junior is also known for his speed, helping him score eight runs.
Newcomers Adam Perry, Andrew Cash and Trevor Haggard round out the outfield for MT.
Perry, a transfer from Volunteer State, hit .542 over 12 games last season, driving in 10 runs and scoring eight times. Originally hailing from Bronx, N.Y., the junior is a former all-state honoree for McGavock High School in Nashville.
Haggard is a former all-state player as well, playing for for Jackson Christian School in Jackson, Tenn., where led the state in both stolen bases (42) and runs scored (78) as a junior.
Cash starred for Ravenwood High School in Brentwood, Tenn., earning a spot on the All-District Tournament Team in 2010.