SPORTS: Blue Raiders need chip on shoulder

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Football is finally over.

Now, the attention turns to basketball and hockey. But baseball is right around the corner.

For the Blue Raiders, they hope the 2012 season does not end the same way it did last year.

Last season was a year to forget.

The team finished with an 18-37 record and was tied for ninth in the Sun Belt Conference with a poor mark of 9-21. Of course, no team wants to have a repeat performance like that one the following season.

The Blue Raiders are no different.

Usually, they are in contention for a Sun Belt title and a spot in the NCAA tournament.

This year, they hope they get back to a position they are used to – one toward the top – instead of being at the bottom of the baseball conferences.

On Feb. 2, longtime Blue Raider skipper Steve Peterson held the school’s annual Groundhog Day luncheon. This year’s speech focused on how the team needs to have a “chip on its shoulder” heading into the 2012 season, which starts Feb. 17 at home against Kansas.

During an interview after the luncheon, Peterson admitted he did not do a good job of coaching in terms of overcoming the injuries and losses the team dealt with last season. At the same time, he added he does not want it to happen again. The players agreed with the assessment.

“It is something we have not forgotten, and we have a chip on our shoulder,” sophomore infielder Hank LaRue said last week.

Of course, its baseball, and when you have been around the sport like Peterson has for the past 24 years, these things happen.

The bad seasons happen in all levels of baseball.

However, the success that the Blue Raiders have enjoyed in the short time the team has been a member of the Sun Belt is incredible, especially in a conference that is as difficult as this one.

The conference sent three squads to the NCAA tournament last season, and the Sun Belt has a long history of being one of the few leagues in the nation to advance at least two teams to the Big Dance each year.

Since joining the league before the 2001 season, MTSU has won five conference titles and made four trips to the NCAA tournament. Of course, before then as a longtime member of the Ohio Valley Conference, the Blue Raiders also enjoyed a lot of success on the field.

This year should be no different, Peterson said. But, in order to do that the pitching and defense has to improve from last year, he said.

The pitching staff’s ERA was above five, which ranked near the bottom of the league. Of course, new bats were introduced in college ball, and it took a little while for the staff to get use to them. But now that the Blue Raiders have had a year of experience using the new bats, this season should improve.

The Blue Raiders have been in preseason mode under unseasonable warm temperatures, and Peterson said the coaching staff has been pleased with how the team is coming together. However, it is a young team with only three seniors, even though the younger players have a lot of experience.

How will they respond? Have they learned anything from 2011? We will see.

This program has had way too much success in the past for it not too recoup and carry on that tradition.
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Baseball, Blue Raiders, David Hunter, MTSU, Sports, Voices
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