Montgomery starting off hot

There have been plenty of offensive heroes for Middle Tennessee in the young 2010 season, but every game can't be won at the plate. Every once in a while, the guy delivering the pitch deserves some credit and that can certainly be said of Blue Raider reliever Nick Montgomery.

While the season is still young, Montgomery has been nothing short of spectacular in his two appearances so far. In his first game at Memphis, he earned a win after going three innings, giving up one run on two hits while walking one and striking out four. This past weekend, he notched another W after 4 1/3 innings of shutout relief after only giving up one hit and striking out a pair. At the time of this article, Montgomery led Middle Tennessee in wins (2), K/9 (7.36) and is leading pitchers with over two innings in ERA (1.23).

A product of San Marcos High School in San Marcos, Tex., Montgomery made a one-year stop at Ranger College in 2008. In 10 appearances he posted a 2-1 record, but also amassed a 7.47 ERA. In a never-ending attempt to improve his game, Montgomery decided to participate in a summer league.

"I went to play summer ball in Ohio and got recruited by MTSU," Montgomery recalls. "Then I felt comfortable coming here on my visit and meeting the coaches so I decided to sign here."

In his first season in Murfreesboro, Montgomery appeared in 25 games where he posted a 4.25 ERA to go along with a 4-1 record. Montgomery also earned a save during the season.

"I've always had a main goal to just continue to learn about the game, because the game is always changing and you can't slack off unless you want to get beat," says Montgomery. "The main thing with my pitching is to make sure I work on getting the ball down because I'm a sinker ball pitcher, so this summer I really tried to work on the sinker and develop as a pitcher even more."

So far the hard work over the summer has paid off handsomely. Of the 22 opponent batters he's faced so far this season, Montgomery has only allowed three hits and one walk which translates to an unfathomable WHIP of .54. In addition to that, opponents are only batting a combined .129 against him so far.

"It feels great," Montgomery says about being able to sweep the first home series of the season. "All around we played well as a team. The sticks are starting to come around and defensively we're great."

He goes on to say that he hopes the Blue Raiders can carry that momentum into their two-game series at Southern Illinois, which begins tomorrow. When asked how the pitching staff approaches scouting a team like Ohio or Southern Illinois, Montgomery quotes the coaching philosophy that's been ingrained into the staff since practice began for the season.

"The thing I was taught by Coach McLaury is we're always going to pitch to our strengths," he says. "And we'll continue to do so until they beat us and then we'll move on to something else until we get them out. That's the general approach."

Hopefully Montgomery can move on from last season's appearance against the Salukis. In the first game of a two-game series against Southern Illinois last year, Montgomery gave up three earned runs in one inning of work. He'll have his opportunity for redemption when the Raiders take the field at 2:00 tomorrow afternoon.

Extra Extra

- As a testament to his humility, Montgomery took the opportunity to tout a few teammates during our interview session. He mentioned both Tyler Burnett and Blake McDade as key factors in team's early success. He also spoke particularly highly of freshman shortstop Ryan Ford, saying "We've got a shortstop who's been making great plays. Ryan Ford shows he's not scared out there. You'd think he'd be jittery as a freshman, but he showed in Memphis that's not the case."

- Montgomery gave me a run down of his repertoire. He features a fastball, curveball and changeup. "As far as my bread and butter goes, I'd say it's my sinker (which is actually a two-seam fastball)." During his appearance in the Ohio series, his two seamer topped out at 89 m.p.h. on the radar gun.

- When asked which Blue Raider hitter he would least like to face, Nick didn't hesitate at all. "Blake McDade. He's the ball really well right now. He's a lefty, too, so he'll see it better out of my hand, and if you make a mistake in he's going to punish you. He's able to stay with the outside pitch and drive it into left, too." Again Montgomery takes the opportunity to tout a teammate. "He's off to a hot start right now and I think he's one of the hottest bats on the team."

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