Updated, 2/20, 9:00 a.m.: With storms set to roll into Murfreesboro on Sunday, the schools have agreed to move Sunday's finale to Saturday evening. The teams will play a doubleheader beginning at 3 p.m. today.
What You Need to Know
Who: Indiana Hoosiers (0-0, 0-0) at Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (0-0, 0-0)
Where: Reese Smith Jr. Field, Murfreesboro, Tennessee
When: Friday, 4 p.m. ET; Saturday, 3 p.m. ET; Saturday, following the conclusion of Game 2 ET
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Who are the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders?
Coming off a 32-27 campaign and a 19-11 mark in Conference USA, D1baseball.com predicts that the Blue Raiders are a middle-of-the-road team in the C-USA this season, projecting them to finish 6th of 12 teams. But MTSU won't be afraid of a power conference team with recent NCAA pedigree. Last season, the Blue Raiders played 12 games against eventual participants in the NCAA tournament, going 3-9 against the likes of Iowa, Lipscomb, Vanderbilt, Rice, and Florida International.
MTSU has some real experience in the battery, with Nate Hoffmann, a senior RHP and C-USA preseason Pitcher of the Year, taking the role of the Friday night ace. Last season, he went 4-1 with a 3.61 ERA in 13 starts and 15 appearances. He's joined in the rotation by Saturday starter and fellow senior, LHP Tyler Troutt, who made 11 starts of his own last year, although with poor results, including a 1-4 record and a 4.64 ERA.
But that experience may have to carry the weekend for MTSU, whose Sunday starter is sophomore RHP Reid Clements, who made one appearance as a freshman in 2015 and faced just 2 batters.
Brad Jarreau, a junior RF, was the only other Blue Raider other than Hoffmann named to the C-USA preseason all-conference team, and will bear the burden of carrying MTSU's lineup. Jarreau started all 59 games last season and hit .338, while driving in 31 runs. But Jarreau's lack of power and seeming lack of burner speed will require others to step up around him. Of his 81 hits last season, just 1 was a home run, 11 were doubles. And he stole just 3 bases in the 100 times he reached base. But he'll pressure opposing defenses into making plays nearly ever at-bat, as he struck out just 20 times in 240 at-bats last season.
Friday: Kyle Hart vs. Nate Hoffmann
Saturday: Evan Bell vs. Tyler Troutt
Sunday: Caleb Baragar vs. Reid Clements
If this series was taking place in mid-March or later, Indiana might only leave Murfeesboro happy if they were taking three wins with them. But being February 19, 20, and 21, pitchers are on the shortest leashes of the season (not on results, but on pitch count). Last season in the opening series at Stanford, only inning-eating, freak of nature Scott Effross made it through six innings. So in a series where Indiana might seem to have an advantage in nearly every measurable category and nearly every spot on the field, the rust from a long, cold winter and any reduced pitch counts that Lemonis might have on Kyle Hart, Evan Bell, and Caleb Baragar may level the playing field for this one weekend. But Indiana should take two of three, at minimum, and may find a way to use their brooms on the first weekend of the season.
For more on the Hoosiers, check out our two-part season preview: