After squeaking out a one= run victory in their home game against Southeast Missouri State, the Tigers (3-5) will travel to Knoxville to face Middle Tennessee State (4-4) in the Tri-Star Classic on Thursday. This will be the first of three games this weekend for the Tigers.
What to watch
A key coming into this matchup for the Tigers will be if their starting pitching staff can carry over their performance from their last game. In Memphis’ matchup with SEMO, Tiger starter and freshman Danny Denz had a stellar outing. The Illinois native tossed six shutout innings, allowing just three hits and striking out four batters. He was also able to force two groundball double plays in the game.
The two teams were locked in a classic pitchers’ duel until Memphis finally broke the tie. First baseman Nick Vaage walked to start the seventh inning and moved to second base when sophomore Colton Neel singled. Both runners moved up on a wild pitch, and a second wild pitch allowed Vaage to score the first run of the game.
A look at the opponent
The Blue Raiders have had their fair share of struggles lately. They are currently on a three-game losing streak, with two of their losses coming by at least nine runs. They have not fared well away from Murfreesboro, having not yet won a home game this season. Their pitching staff has also struggled as of late, with only one pitcher with an earned run average under 4.00.
Players to watch
MTSU infielder LA Woodard
Woodard had a stellar start to his 2018 campaign. He has become arguably the Blue Raiders’ biggest threat offensively. Currently, he bats .370 on the season, leading the team. Woodard also leads the team in total hits, walks and slugging percentage. Woodard’s work in the field has been decent as well, with a fielding percentage of .941. His 22 assisted putouts lead the team.
Memphis pitcher Hunter Smith
Smith was a key factor in helping the Tigers break a four-game losing streak against SEMO. The sophomore Mississippi native pitched one and two-thirds innings out of the bullpen and struck out three batters. His performance is a continuation of a strong 2017 campaign, when he broke through as a weapon out of the bullpen. He made 18 appearances in relief for the Tigers, picking up 20 strikeouts in 26.1 innings of pitching. In a February matchup against Ole Miss, he tossed three hitless innings in their road win.
Memphis outfielder Tyler Webb
It is safe to say that Webb has lived up to his preseason All-Conference billing. The senior has been on fire for the Tigers this season. He is currently batting a Ted Williams-esque .462 average on the year, far and away leading the team. The Texas native also leads the team in slugging percentage, doubles, and hits. His four RBIs only trail first baseman Kyle Ouellette for first on the team.
Alec Trela follows through on his swing. The Illinois native leads the teams in runs.
Tyler Webb takes a swing. The Texas native is one of five seniors on the 2018 roster