by Barca Blog - Vanderbilt has played Middle Tennessee six times in midweek games during Mike Minor’s career, but Friday will mark the first time the junior ace will take the hill against the Blue Raiders in his storied career.
Minor spoke about the anticipation of facing an in-state rival in the NCAA Louisville Regional opener.
“Everybody’s excited about it,” Minor said, “and plus it’s MTSU and Vanderbilt. Every year they come to our ballpark and they always show up. We always have close games. Now we’re in the big tournament so it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Vanderbilt and Middle Tennessee split their two midweek meetings in 2009. On April 7 in Murfreesboro, MTSU dominated VU, 8-0, making it the only time the ‘Dores have been blanked all year. One week later, the Commodores evened the series by scoring seven runs in the fifth inning to rout the Blue Raiders, 15-7, at Hawkins Field.
“This will kind of be the tie-breaker right now,” Minor stated. “Plus, they’re a good team. We’re always trying to tell everybody that we’re the best team in the state, so it’s going to be a good contest.”
With state bragging rights on the line Friday, some might look back and argue that Middle Tennessee hasn’t faced Minor or the rest of Vanderbilt’s weekend starting rotation in the two previous matchups, but don’t tell that to head coach Tim Corbin. Corbin knows the Blue Raiders cannot be overlooked.
“(Middle Tennessee) is an SEC ball club,” Corbin admitted. “I thought they were one of the best teams we’ve seen this season, forget the fact that we played them in the midweek.
"They have very good players and two premium players (in Bryce Brentz and Rawley Bishop) that would be a three or four-hole hitter on most SEC teams.
“The bottom line is that we know they’re pretty good and it doesn’t matter where Middle Tennessee is playing, whether it’s the Sun Belt or SEC, they’re in this tournament regardless because they can play.”
MTSU will be making their 14th appearance in the NCAA Tournament. They will enter the postseason as a No. 2 seed, the highest ever for the program. The Sun Belt regular season and tournament champions also broke their school record for wins with 43.