Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Regional chatter

Decided it was time to look for a few links on the teams in Troy's regional

On Troy, HERE is what I wrote on the Trojans' selection.

Tough to find some Oklahoma State info. OSU is also in the softball World Series and golf national championships. HERE is a short OSU story.

HERE is a story from the Tennessean on Vanderbilt and Belmont facing each other.

News in there: if Troy gets past OSU, they'll see Vanderbilt lefty Grayson Garvin, the SEC Pitcher of the Year. Vandy's ace is Sonny Gray, but he'll throw in Game 1.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Troy headed to regionals


Here is a shot of Troy players celebrating after seeing their name on the TV screen.

Troy is a 3-seed in the Nashville (Vanderbilt) regional. Troy will play Oklahoma State, the 2-seed, in its first game Friday. No. 1 seed Vanderbilt, the No. 6 national seed, will play No. 4 Belmont.

"It’s been a heck of a year," shortstop Adam Bryant said. "We’ve got a lot of good guys on this team. Since I’ve been here for four years, it’s awesome to finally make it to a regional.

"We were told that we might be on the bubble after getting online. Everybody didn’t know what to expect."

The Oklahoma State release is HERE.

REGIONAL SCHEDULE
Friday, June 3
#2 Oklahoma St. (35-23) vs. #3 Troy (42-17) – 2 p.m. CT
#1 Vanderbilt (47-10) vs. #4 Belmont (36-24) – 7 p.m. CT

Saturday, June 4
Game 1 Loser vs. Game 2 Loser - 2 p.m. CT
Game 1 Winner vs. Game 2 Winner - 7 p.m. CT

Sunday, June 5
Game 3 Winner vs. Game 4 Loser - 2 p.m. CT
Championship Game - 7 p.m. CT

Monday, June 6

Championship Game (if necessary) - 2 p.m. CT


Fans wishing to purchase tickets can contact the Vanderbilt ticket office at 615-322-GOLD (4653).


Here is the Sun Belt schedule.

Chapel Hill Regional hosted by North Carolina
(Winner advances to play the winner of the Fullerton Regional)
#1 North Carolina (45-14) vs. #4 Maine (32-22)
#2 FIU (40-18-1) vs. #3 James Madison (40-17)

Corvallis Regional hosted by Oregon St.

(Winner advances to play the winner of the Nashville Regional)
#1 Oregon St. (38-17) vs. #4 UALR (24-32)
#2 Creighton (44-14) vs. #3 Georgia (31-30)

Nashville Regional hosted by Vanderbilt

(Winner advances to play the winner of the Corvallis Regional)
#1 Vanderbilt (47-10) vs. #4 Belmont (36-24)
#2 Oklahoma St. (35-23) vs. #3 Troy (42-17)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Troy awaits regional selection

It's about 24 hours until the selection show, which airs at 11:30 a.m. CST Monday on ESPN. Troy is hoping for an at-large bid and the consensus is that, at 42-17, regular season champions, but despite a low RPI in the high 40s, the Trojans will be playing in a regional next weekend.

HERE is the story that appeared in the Sunday Dothan Eagle after talking to coach Bobby Pierce on Saturday. You can read it to see how he feels about the team's chances, the round robin format of the Sun Belt Tournament, and RPI.

HERE is the regional projections from SEBaseball.com, which have Troy as a 3-seed in Atlanta.

Mark Etheridge, who runs SEBaseball.com, said he'd do a final projection later on, after the Sun Belt and Big 12 tournament finals. If UALR upsets FIU today, one bubble team will get pushed out.

Also, a couple of player notes

***Junior outfielder Drew Prichard is academically ineligible for the rest of the year. The ruling came down before the Trojans left for Monroe, and Prichard, a left-handed bat hitting .277 with 5 HRs, didn't make the trip. I think it's a big loss because he had established himself as a 5-6 hole type hitter and hit real well against South Alabama. It's the first player Pierce has lost to academics in his 9 years as coach at Troy, and hopefully Prichard will be able to get back for his senior season.

...Freshman outfielder Hayden Hillyer, an emerging left-handed bat, is playing with a broken big toe suffered after he fouled a ball off his foot in his first at-bat in the Wednesday game at UALR. Hillyer started Thursday against FAU, going 0-for-3 with a walk and run scored, and had a key pinch-hit RBI double against WKU on Friday.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

First commit for Trojans

Troy has itself a pipeline to First Coast High School in Jacksonville, Fla.

Defensive back Shaq Beverly has committed to Troy, per rivals. I hope to talk to Shaq at some point. Trojans signed running back Duron White and cornerback DJ Jones (JUCO) from there last season.

That's a credit to running backs coach Jeff Beckles, who recruits the area.

"Jacksonville (Fla.) First Coast DB Shaq Beverly committed to Troy today. Shaq is good people and a competitive kid. Nice get." - rivals analyst Chris Nee said on his twitter.

That would be the first commit I'm aware of. Troy will probably take at least one guy it signed in 2010 and sent to JUCO, but that will be determined this summer.

I've sent out a message to Beverly and hope to chat with him soon about his commitment.

2012 COMMITMENTS
HIGH SCHOOL
Shaq Beverly - DB - Jacksonville, Fla. (First Coast)

Troy ends tourney with win

Troy beat Western Kentucky in the finale of the Sun Belt Tournament 4-2. Box score HERE.

HERE is Dan McDonald's story that appeared in the Dothan Eagle. We thank him for helping us out.

At 42-17, regardless of RPI, Troy's going to be in a regional. I feel pretty confident about that. Of course, the selection committee could be reading my blog and laughing at me, but we'll find out Monday at 11:30 a.m.

This was the first year of pool play for the Sun Belt Tournament, and Saturday is a day of games that won't impact anything. No. 2 FIU is playing No. 8 UALR in the final on Sunday regardless of what happens Saturday.

I'll have to ask coach Bobby Pierce what he thinks about it. I suppose it's good for teams who are going to regionals regardless, but bad for teams like, say, Western Kentucky - a talented enough team but one that didn't show it well enough during the season. It loses to UALR in its Game 2, and instead of the feeling that it could still fight through the loser's bracket, it is eliminated from tournament championship contention and challenging for an automatic berth after Troy beats FAU later Friday night.

I'm of the opinion that every conference across the country should be a 6-team, double-elimination deal. You still play 3 games a day, it's over in 4 days barring rain, and no team plays more than 5 games.

But I'm in the minority there. Coaches across America want to fit as many teams as possible in these tournaments. Me, I think a 22-32 UALR team playing for a conference title because it got hot over a 2-day stretch (instead of winning more than 10 games over a 30-game stretch in 10 weeks) devalues the regular season.

We'll see what direction the league goes. There are arguments for and against this setup, and the 8-team double-elimination setup.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Some stuff from Sun Belt meetings

The Sun Belt spring meetings were recently in SanDestin, Fla. Here are a couple of interesting points that came out.

***Currently the Sun Belt Conference uses XOS in football for official reviews and instant replay system takes in five inputs at once for review by the officials. The conference provides all of the following to each school: one set top box to take in and record all five inputs, XOS instant replay software, remote control for replay system, monitors, goal line cameras, training for instant replay system and an instant replay system support. Starting in the 2011 football season the following upgrades are being made conference wide: install two new HD capable goal line pan-tilt-zoom camera systems and Install two new SDI/Analog HD monitors.

The XOS instant replay system for basketball operates with a unit sitting courtside on the scorer’s table. XOS replay is capable of taking the TV production feed, in-house production feed or simply the coaches camera feed allowing for complete flexibility. There is a second, fixed camera in each facility which provides a shot/game clock image which is inserted into the video allowing for accurate determinations of timing infractions and the technician simply uses a handheld push-button to mark points that could potentially be reviewed. If at any time a referee would like to review a play, the technician cues that mark and operates the system using controls that are much like a VCR or DVR.

***Another topic of conversation was the future of league scheduling as Denver departs the Sun Belt Conference after the 2011-12 season and South Alabama begins Sun Belt play in football in 2012.

Representatives of Sun Belt Conference member institutions have already approved an eight game conference football that will be effective for the 2012 season. Each of the 10 teams will play four home and four away games each season and will never miss a game against its natural rival. League representatives approved on Wednesday a nine game conference schedule beginning in the 2015 season with each team playing each other.

Of note, Troy's natural rival is South Alabama. From what I remember, the Jaguars visit Troy in 2012.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Troy rebounds, beats FAU




Big win for the Trojans tonight, 9-6 over Florida Atlantic.

I'll link the game story when it gets posted online. Trojans can't reach the championship game - oddly enough, 8th seeded UALR won its first 2 games and clinched a berth in it. Troy will finish out the Sun Belt Tournament Friday at 7 p.m. against Western Kentucky. Ryan Sorce will start on the mound.

At 41-17, got to figure Troy is in the NCAA Regional tournament. But another win will help its quest for an at-large bid.

Jimmy Hodgskin (pictured above, Sun Belt photo) started. Nate Hill got the win in relief.

HERE is the game story from our correspondent Dan McDonald.

Troy falls to UALR

Well, this didn't need to happen.

Troy lost 4-2 to 8th seeded and 20-32 Arkansas-Little Rock, as UALR got a couple of two-out singles to score two in the top of the 10th.

UALR's RPI was in the 180s, so it's a bad RPI loss and the Trojans need to beat FAU and WKU to feel better about Selection Monday if this committee places too high of an emphasis on RPI.

Troy will send freshman Jimmy Hodgskin to the mound against FAU's Paul Davis, a first-team all-Sun Belt selection. It's a must-win game for FAU, so expect this one to be a battle.

This game didn't start until 10:15 p.m. because of 2 extra-inning games and because of weather. Good thing the game tomorrow is at 7 p.m.

------------

We hired Dan McDonald to cover Troy's tournament games for us.

HERE is his story.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sun Belt Tournament begins today

The Tournament begins in Monroe, La. It's a new round-robin format that the league coaches voted on to help ensure that the top teams fare better in regionals. Last year, FIU and Troy met in the title game and it was their sixth games of the tournament in 5 days. The pitching was shot and ineffective next week in the regionals.

So this week, no team will play more than 4 games. Most regional-bound teams can fight through 4 games in 5 days, so we'll see how everyone likes it this year.

TODAY'S SCHEDULE
11 a.m. - (5)FAU vs. (4)WKU
3 p.m. - (7)Arkansas State vs. (2) FIU
7 p.m. - (1)Troy vs. (8)UALR

Troy will throw ace Tyler Ray tonight because that's how they've opened every series, plus there's not another starter ready to come back on short rest and be effective.

A side note on Troy: The Trojans were hot and winning games when Boone Shear and Tyson Workman were struggling and not in the lineup. Now that both are settled in the lineup, have gotten comfortable and are producing the way coach Bobby Pierce thought they would, this is a team that's going to be a tough out all through the lineup. The bench is strong, too. The big question marks are the health/effectiveness/trust with pitchers with the exception of Ray, Jimmy Hodgskin (game 2 starter) and relief aces Nate Hill and Workman.

HERE is what I wrote as a preview in today's paper. I won't be in Monroe this week, but we did hire a guy by the name of Dan McDonald to cover the Troy games for us. Dan's a veteran in the business who once covered UL-Lafayette for the paper down there.

Speaking of UL-Lafayette, a good bracket breakdown of the tournament was done by Cajuns play-by-play man Jay Walker, who has seen every team in the league play. Bracket A (Troy, UALR, FAU, WKU) is HERE and Bracket B (UL-Lafayette, FIU, Arkansas State, South Alabama) is HERE.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Trojans honored by league

HERE is the release, and below are the all-conference teams and top awards.


Sun Belt Co-Players of the Year
Pablo Bermudez, FIU
Adam Bryant, Troy

Sun Belt Pitcher of the Year
Tyler Ray, Troy

Sun Belt Freshman of the Year
Justin Hageman, WKU

Ron Maestri Coach of the Year
Bobby Pierce, Troy

2011 All-Sun Belt First Team
SP - Paul Davis, Florida Atlantic
SP - Tyler Ray, Troy
RP - Hugh Adams, Florida Atlantic
C - Matt Rice, WKU
1B - Joey Rapp, Louisiana-Monroe
2B - Raymond Church, Florida Atlantic
SS - Adam Bryant, Troy
3B - Tyler Hannah, Troy
3B - Jeremy Patton, FIU
OF - Todd Baumgartner, Arkansas State
OF - Pablo Bermudez, FIU
OF - Kes Carter, WKU
DH - Nick Rountree, UALR
UTIL - Tyson Workman, Troy


2011 All-Sun Belt Second Team
SP - Phil Haig, FIU
SP - Tanner Perkins, WKU
RP - Nate Hill, Troy
C - Brent Tanner, South Alabama
1B - Mike Martinez, FIU
2B - T.J. Rivera, Troy
SS - Nick DelGuidice, Florida Atlantic
3B - Hank LaRue, Middle Tennessee
OF - Jared Andreoli, WKU
OF - Alex Hudak, Florida Atlantic
OF - Will Skinner, Middle Tennessee
DH - Lance Marvel, Louisiana-Lafayette
UTIL - Brad Hook - South Alabama

Trojans pass the APR mark

The APR results came out today, and all of Troy's programs passed the 925 mark, so there are no penalities. Other Sun Belt schools were not so lucky. So to everyone, congratulations on going to class and passing your tests/projects.

You can go HERE for the search form for APR and find Troy University to search.

Troy's football score dropped from 940 to 932
Troy's men's basketball raised from 942 to 953
Troy baseball raised from 938 to 944.
Men's track and women's basketball were the top scores at 983.
Speaking of men's track, big ups to the program. When APR came out in 2005 and penalties were handed down, the program scored 872 and lost some scholarships. Now, it's one of the best academic athletic teams in the league.

Our good friend Nick Baumgardner from the Bowling Green Daily News put together the Sun Belt scores for football, baseball and basketball. It outlines the penalties some teams, most notably ULM, will have to deal with.

Go HERE to read it.

ULM lost 7 football scholarships and its basketball team won't be going to the Sun Belt Tournament this year.

Tuesday baseball links/chat

I'll get to the impact of yesterday's football news sometime later, but still need to give baseball its due.

HERE is a feature on Troy LHP Nate Hill, one of the top bullpen arms in the league despite the fact not many people thought he'd pitch this year because of an arm injury.

The all-Sun Belt teams come out tonight at 7:15 p.m. CST. Hill has a chance as a RP. Others with good chances to land on the first or second teams include Tyson Workman as a utility spot, Adam Bryant at SS, Tyler Ray at RHP and Tyler Hannah at 3B.

In fact, I'd be a bit surprised if Troy didn't sweep the major awards with Bobby Pierce as Coach of the Year, Ray as Pitcher of the Year and Bryant as Player of the Year.

The Trojans are already in Monroe for the tournament. The big family night/honors night/home run derby, etc., is tonight at ULM's field.

Troy plays UALR tomorrow at 7, FAU Thursday at 7 and WKU Friday at 7. The bye is Saturday, and if Troy has the best record out of its pool, the championship is Sunday at 1 p.m.

Tyler Ray will pitch the opener, and Jimmy Hodgskin against FAU. Pierce said he wasn't yet sure who would throw against WKU. He said if they make it to the title game, Ray wouldn't pitch that because they would feel comfortable about their status as an at-large team if they were not able to win the title game.

My guess is Troy will see FAU ace Paul Davis, but he did throw about 150 pitches in a 2-0 shutout last Friday at FIU (Troy can thank him for a part in the Trojans coming back to win the league title).

If there is a 3-way tie in the pool, Troy will advance to the title game because they are the higher seed. That's certainly possible because WKU and FAU have good clubs.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Four Trojans academically ineligible; fifth dismissed

TROY – Four players will not be academically eligible for Troy’s football team this fall, and a fifth was dismissed for violating team rules, Trojans head coach Larry Blakeney said Monday.

The losses are big. Wide receivers Jamel Johnson and Chip Reeves, along with cornerback KeJuan Phillips and linebacker Mark Wilson are academically ineligible, while defensive end R.J. Roberts was dismissed for a violation of team rules.

Johnson and Reeves were projected starters. Phillips has starting experience and was a starter at one cornerback spot coming out of spring practice. Wilson and Roberts were reserves.

EDIT - HERE is the full story online.

***This is big news. Johnson was blossoming into a star and Reeves was the fastest player on the team. Phillips was solid, but Troy is deep at cornerback.

***Johnson is headed for junior college for a semester, either at Holmes or East Central in Mississippi (according to his twitter). I believe Wilson is headed that way as well, but to somewhere in Kansas. Phillips and Reeves would have another year left after 2011 (Reeves has not yet redshirted). Not sure what their plans are, but I'd be surprised if they (Reeves and Phillips) are back.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Back from Mobile: Links, video, thoughts

The game story is HERE.

Here is some video I got after the game



***At 40 wins, I'd have to think Troy is a lock for a regional. However, the RPI (around 44) lends you to think otherwise. It boils down to having to play Florida A&M twice and Alabama A&M. Winning those games killed the RPI. But they had to play those games because Alabama won't come to Troy, and Kennesaw State backed out of the home-and-home. Play those 3, and even lose all 3, and the RPI's at least 10 spots higher.

That being said, they're in a regional in my opinion even if they don't get the league's automatic bid for winning the tournament. At the Sun Belt Tournament, Troy plays UALR Wednesday, FAU Thursday and WKU Friday. All games are at 7 p.m. at ULM. I wonder if he'll start Tyler Ray vs. a weaker UALR squad with hopes of bringing him back Sunday for the championship if they get that far, or pitch him against a good FAU squad. Troy has a tournament bye on Saturday.

***Coach Bobby Pierce really loves this team. A lot. I've seen him get championships earlier when I started covering Troy, and the 2006 clincher over MTSU was a game for the ages, but he looked like a kid at Christmas after today's win. Great to see.

***Rare, or never, is it that I question these coaches in my mind. I think that highly of them. Of course, it's easy to question the decision to leave Workman in at the end. He lost his sharpness around the 7th inning sometime. But there was no way he was coming out. Workman has incredible fortitude on the mound. You think about crazy MLB closers like Brian Wilson and while Workman isn't humming it at 96 mph, he's got that same mentality. At 140-plus pitches, Workman was the best choice to get guys out at the end (of course, having Nate Hill throw a lot the day before helped that decision), and you knew that while he bent a little, he wasn't going to break.

***The resurgence of Workman and Boone Shear in the lineup may be what helps this team win a regional. Those two guys were supposed to be top hitters all throughout the year, but struggled early on and some other guys stepped up and helped the Trojans win some games. Those two are real talents at the plate and it's showed of late. Shear hit .777 (7-for-9) this weekend and his 2-run, pinch-hit homer Thursday cut the lead to 8-6 (Troy eventually lost 9-8), got him going, and got the team going. He's back in the lineup for good and I've got a feeling he'll swing it well from here on out and hit 12-15 home runs next year when he's playing every day.

***All-conference thoughts: This should be announced Monday night or Tuesday morning. I've got to think Tyler Ray, Adam Bryant and Tyler Hannah are first-team locks. I haven't looked up catcher stats, but Todd McRae could slide in somewhere. His average is pretty good and he's a very good backstop. I could be forgetting someone, but I've been on the road for 3 hours and it's late.

***We'll talk to coaches and players again Monday morning and find out the pitching plans, etc., for the Sun Belt Tournament. The Trojans leave at noon Monday and get to spend nearly a week in Monroe, La.!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Troy wins Sun Belt title

It got interesting, but Troy held on to beat South Alabama 10-7. I got video, but I'll have to get it up several hours from now because of a small glitch.

Here's some photos. Check the story on dothaneagle.com. I am headed back to Dothan

***Dogpile after game



***Team photo after game


***Coach Bobby Pierce after he got the cooler dumped on him


***Tyson Workman threw 149 pitches. Then he got to talk to Jerry Miller.



***Another celebration shot

Troy-South Alabama Game 3



Right now, longtime coach Steve Kittrell is being honored (picture). This is his last home game as he's retiring after 28 years. Great guy, from the limited dealings I've had with him, and I'm glad to get to see this.

However, Troy has a championship on the line and to win it, will have to run his special day. Troy is sending LHP Ryan Sorce, who has been really bad the last few weeks as he's battled dead arm issues. But his arm has no structural problems, so he could regain that lost velocity as soon as today. We'll see.

I'll have a few updates as we go along. Follow me on twitter @dothaneagletroy

END 5 - South Alabama leads 3-2. Sorce's start didn't work out, so Workman is in. He walked in a run in the fifth, which probably goes down as unearned. Trojans have made a couple of critical errors that have led to runs.

Troy got a run in the 2nd, run in the third (Hannah solo homer) and South got two in the third. Trojans have only two hits off USA starter Paris, and a bunch of flyouts to center.

END 6 - Troy came alive in the 6th, getting 4 straight hits to lead off the inning. There was 2-run single from McRae and a single from Hayden Hillyer that scored two. Trojans lead 6-3.

END 7 - Troy left them loaded in the top of the 7th. The bottom got dicey. Two quick outs, then a HPB, 1B and BBs to the 8th and 9th hitters score a run. Workman, at close to 100 pitches, got leadoff hitter Taylor White to rip a fly ball to center, but right to Hayden Hillyer for the third out. 6-4 Troy.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Trojans take Game 2

Game story HERE.

Tomorrow, a win will give Troy its first league title since 2006. Pierce said after the game he wasn't sure who would start.

Thomas Austin was the first righty to warm up in the pen. He's got a chance. If Ryan Sorce has somehow rediscovered the lost velocity that has plagued him, I think he's the obvious choice. But if not, then I'm not sure he's a factor. South Alabama has six left-handed hitting starters, and all hit .288 or better.

A couple of guys who are very familiar with Troy baseball suggested Cass Abercrombie, who has thrown something like 4 innings all year, but coaches tinkered with his delivery and he has been lights out in pen, practice, and a couple of games.

It'll be a challenge. It's coach Steve Kittrell's last home game at South Alabama, and they'll spend a long time honoring him before the game. We'll see if that's a distraction or not.



Troy (Jimmy Hodgskin, LHP, 2-6, 4.23 ERA), vs. South Alabama (Dustin Crenshaw, 7-1, 3.47 ERA).

Troy's lineup Workman/Hannah/Bryant/Rivera/Pierce/McRae/Prichard/Shear/Knowles

END 1 - Troy got 3 hits in the first, 2 runs on a 2-out single by Todd McRae. Jimmy "Wild Thing" Hodgskin walks the first batter, picks him off, then strikes out the next two.

END 2 - Still 2-0 Troy. Hodgskin gave up a sharp single and infield single, but got K and F7. He has four strikeouts and after that leadoff walk, has commanded well. Troy had a leadoff double by Shear in the 2nd, but couldn't bunt him over to third and he was stranded.

END 3 - South Alabama got a run, though it should have been erased but Rivera booted a double play ball. Hodgskin got out of it with 2 popups, though. He's thrown well so far.

END 4 - Big 4th inning. Boone Shear hits his 2nd double of the game. Run scores. Knowles SF-8, run scores. Hannah RBI groundout. Trojans up 5-1.

END 5 - Troy gets a run on a double from Prichard. South Alabama answers when DeBlieux leads off with deep fly to center. Knowles overruns it, then picks it up and drops it, and DeBlieux scores. I hope that's the last time I have to type DeBlieux (pronounced "W"). 6-2 Troy.

END 6 - Not much going on there. Hodgskin closing in on 90 pitches, Hill in the pen warming up. Of the 7 hits he's given up, one was a bunt, one was an infield hit, and one was a ball Knowles overran in center. Still 6-2.

END 7 - Back to back doubles to lead off 7th for Hodgskin. After a DEEP flyout from Overstreet, Hill comes in. He took loss last night, threw 26 pitches. Gets a whiff and a groundout to 2nd to end it. Troy holds on to a 6-3 lead.

South Alabama's lineup is mostly left-handed hitters, 6 of them, and all hitting .288 or better. Not going to get pinch-hit for, so if Troy's left-handed pitchers are sharp, then they have a good chance.

MID 8 - Trojans blow it open with some clutch hits. RBI single by Shear, later an RBI single by Hannah with 2 outs, and Bryant mashes a 3-run homer. Trojans now lead 11-3.

Also, FAU beat FIU 2-0. If Troy holds on, they'll be back in first place by a half-game and would clinch the Sun Belt with a win tomorrow.

END 8 - Crazy bottom of the 8th. Single, single, walk loads bases. Hill gets 2 strikeouts and then a lazy fly to center, but Knowles dropped it and 2 score. Came back to get a groundout to end the inning. 11-5 Troy.

FINAL - Trojans win 11-6. Troy is back in first place in the Sun Belt.

Game 3 is tomorrow at 4 p.m.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Troy falls in game 1

Game story HERE




END 5 - Hard for a pitcher to throw outstanding 14 weeks in a row. South Alabama has touched Tyler Ray up for 7 runs through 5, 6 of them earned.

The score is 7-4. The Jags got 3 in the 4th after a crucial catcher's interference, which would have been the third out. Troy has hit well enough so far, so I think it's far from over.

MID 6 - Troy loaded the bases with 2 outs against starter Garrett Harris, but TJ Rivera lined out to short to end the threat. Still 7-4.

END 6 - South Alabama got another run in the 6th, but could have been worse. Logan Pierce made a Sportscenter Top 10 play at first to end the inning, diving to his left to rob a sure RBI double. Jaguars lead 8-4, and Troy has Sorce and Austin warming up in the pen.

And FIU leads FAU 9-3 midway through. If it ends up like this, FIU will lead the Sun Belt by a half-game over Troy.

MID 7 - Boone Shear was supposed to be one of Troy's main RBI guys. He struggled early on, but then hit a pinch-hit, two-run homer. It's now 8-6 South Alabama.

END 7 - Ray's out and Nate Hill is in

MID 8 - Troy got a leadoff 1B/E1, but then three straight flyouts end it. Still 8-6. USA has 1-2-3 coming up. Looking at Troy's lineup, Trojans will have Prichard/McRae/Shear due up in the ninth.

TOP 9 - Hill gets out of a bases loaded jam with a K and F9. One more chance for Troy against USA sidearmer Kyle Dees.

STILL TOP 9 - Logan Pierce ripped a 2-run double to right center, tying the game at 8-all. Pierce is on second, with Hillyer on first after a walk. 1 out.

It stayed that way, so to the MID 9 we go, Troy and South Alabama tied 8-8.

BOT 9 - Brad Hook hit a leadoff homer off Nate Hill, 9-8 South for the win

Troy at South Alabama

Trojans are at South Alabama Thursday through Saturday, trying to wrap up a Sun Belt title.

Trojans are battling issues with pitching. Shane McCain won't pitch again this week with a shoulder issue. He had an MRI, but is expected to be ready next week. Ryan Sorce is battling dead arm, where his fastball is sitting at 82-83 instead of 88-89. He's had his arm checked out and it's fine, but just needs to rediscover that form. Garrett McHenry was one of the top relievers early in the season but had been held out with shoulder issues. He pitched an inning vs. Samford and the hope is that he is ready to go again. Chris Fisher has a virus and didn't travel with the team. If he gets cleared to go, he'll get in the car and get down to Mobile.

HERE is the story I wrote in today's paper.

It's also the last home series for longtime head coach Steve Kittrell at South Alabama, so you know good and well the Jags don't want to go out on a low note. Going to be tough for the Trojans, but it can be done.

I am about to leave for Mobile and will bring you coverage from the games. Looking forward to it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Troy bashes Samford

This is a pretty critical week for Troy. With the Trojans' RPI (really poor indicator) sitting in the high-40s or low-50s, they're not as automatic of a team as you would think for NCAA regional selection.

I think they need to go 3-1 to feel good about themselves heading into the conference tournament. It started with a big win over Samford. Samford even started one of its top pitchers, but Troy got 5 early runs and coasted.

Box score HERE.

Adam Bryant hit two homers. Tyler Hannah went 3-for-4 with a homer and two doubles. In Hannah's last five games, the junior third baseman is hitting 12-for-20 (.600).

So it sets up a crucial 3-game series at South Alabama, beginning Thursday and ending Saturday. Troy is 1/2 game ahead of FIU for the top spot, and FAU may have a chance to get the No. 1 seed if several things fall right. If Troy and FIU finish with the same record (both teams must win at least 1) then Troy would be the No. 1 seed and Sun Belt champion. If FIU wins one more game than Troy, then FIU will be the No. 1 seed and Sun Belt champion.

I hope my math is right. It's late.

Meanwhile, some more Regional projections are out. PerfectGame and SEBaseball.com each have Troy as a 3-seed in Atlanta, taking on No. 2 Auburn.

Personally I'd like to go back to Deland, Fla., (Stetson), home of the 2005 Atlantic Sun Tournament where I went my first year covering Troy, but Stetson keeps losing games and likely isn't a host team anymore.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Hannah named Player of the Week

The Pitcher of the Week is from South Alabama, and a guy who threw a complete game against the Trojans earlier this season. Here is the Sun Belt's release.

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Hannah, Crenshaw Earn SBC Baseball Players of the Week Honors
NEW ORLEANS - Troy’s Tyler Hannah and South Alabama's Dustin Crenshaw have been named the Sun Belt Conference Player and Pitcher of the Week for the week ending on May 15, 2011 as announced by the conference Monday afternoon.

Hannah, a junior, almost single-handedly willed the Trojans to a Sunday win over Louisiana-Monroe. Hannah went 3-for-4 on Sunday with three doubles and five RBI in the 13-4 win for the Trojans.

He had a double in each game this week while knocking in the game winning RBI on Friday for Troy in the ninth inning to key a 5-3 win in the series opener.

For the week, Hannah batted .562 (9-for-16) at the plate with six doubles, nine RBI and four walks as the first-place Trojans posted a 3-1 record. Hannah scored six runs and also stole his sixth base. In four games, he was perfect in 11 chances in the field. On the season, Hannah leads the Sun Belt in doubles with 25 and ranks second in hits in league play with 42. He has scored a Sun Belt-best 29 runs in conference games.

Hannah leads the league with a .416 average in conference games and is batting .368 overall this season.

Crenshaw tossed a complete-game shutout to lead South Alabama to a series-clinching win over Western Kentucky on Saturday, yielding six hits while striking out five and issuing one walk. He retired 10 consecutive batters after allowing a single in the third inning, and retired 14 of the next 15 batters he faced.

He limited the Sun Belt’s second-ranked offense to a .188 bating average, en route to recording his third complete game and second shutout of the season. Crenshaw is tied for fifth overall in the SBC with seven wins with just one loss. In SBC only play, the senior has compiled a 5-1 record with a 3.38 ERA.

Trojans take series

What do we know about this Troy baseball team?

*They're unbeatable in series openers
*They're really bad in the second games of series
*They're pretty dang good and resilient in third games of series.

Troy fell 4-3 Saturday at ULM, and fell down 4-0 Sunday before rebounding to win 13-4 and win the series.

Tyler Hannah hit three doubles, Adam Bryant and Drew Prichard homered, and Tyson Workman worked a career-best 5.1 scoreless innings of relief.

These guys are good, and they are resilient. Concerns are on the mound with injuries and maybe some tired arms. I'll try to find out more about that. Ryan Sorce couldn't get out of the first inning and Shane McCain didn't even pitch, but Thomas Austin is improving.

Troy is 19-8 in league play. FIU ended up with a tie against Arkansas State because of the travel rule, so they are 18-8-1.

FAU and ULL are both 16-11. Troy is on the road with a tough matchup against South Alabama, and FIU hosts FAU, but the Owls seem to beat the Golden Panthers in everything, so good fortune might be on Troy's side for a conference title.

But FIU is really good and it hasn't lost a game in about a month.

Troy hosts Samford Tuesday. My plan is to be in Mobile for all three of the games at South Alabama Thursday through Saturday.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Trojans win opener

Troy scored 2 in the ninth to beat ULM 5-3. Nathan Hill got the win in relief of Tyler Ray. The Trojans are 13-0 in games Ray has started.

HERE is a recap.

and HERE is a box score.

Troy remains a game ahead of FIU in first place. FIU beat Arkansas State 3-2 down in Miami.

Troy will start Jimmy Hodgskin Saturday at 6 p.m. and Shane McCain on Sunday. Troy needs to get a strong start from Hodgskin, who can't afford to walk guys. If Hodgskin pitches into the 7th (or if Troy hits like they did last Sunday), I like the Trojans' chances.

Baseball update

Troy is at ULM this weekend, looking to hold off a surging FIU team and win a regular season Sun Belt championship.

The Trojans are a game ahead of FIU, at 17-7 (FIU is 16-8) and Troy has the head to head tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed.

Troy has two road series to close out the year, at ULM and next week at South Alabama. FIU is at home twice, vs. Arkansas State and Florida Atlantic.

FAU, ULL and WKU are all four games back, but that might be too big a deficit to overcome with just two weeks left in the regular season.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Time set for season opener

Hard to believe, but the football regular season is less than 4 months away.

Some kickoff times have been announced. The season opener, at Clemson on Sept. 3, will kick off at 3:30 p.m. ET (2:30 p.m. Alabama time). Clemson's site says it is an ESPN3.com broadcast.

The Navy game on Nov. 5 will also be a 2:30 p.m CST kickoff on CBS College Sports.

The FIU game on Tuesday Oct. 25 is a 7 p.m. CST kickoff on ESPN2.

That's all the times I've seen. I would expect the Arkansas kickoff time (Sept. 17) to be set soon.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tuesday link

Got a chance to write a story on Tyson Workman, the outfielder-pitcher who is really starting to come on for the Trojans as of late.

His father, Mike, played for Bobby Pierce at Chipola in 1983. First father-son combo to play for Pierce, he tells me.

HERE is the story.

Trojans play at Florida A&M tonight. Trojans have to play them because teams like Alabama, Florida State and Kennesaw State (as well as other teams in Georgia that aren't far away) won't play them on a regular basis or at all.

Remember that 4-out inning? The triple play Sunday vs. ULL? Here is the video of it, taken by the Troy baseball video crew.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Trojans win series

Eventful game, well early on. But Troy brought the bats and got some pretty steady pitching from starter Shane McCain (4 IP, struck out first 6) and Nathan Hill (3 scoreless innings). Game ended at 13-3 and was called after 7 innings because of the Sunday mercy rule.

The game story is HERE.

The bats are heating up with the weather, it seems. Blake Martz hit two solo homers, the second one a big blast over the CF wall. Tyler Hannah hit a line shot, Tyson Workman hit a 3-run shot, and Adam Bryant hit what should have been a 3-run home run, but it was incorrectly ruled foul. That ended up not impacting the game, but Bryant was/is really swinging the stick well and deserved a home run on Senior Day.

Box score HERE.

One interesting play did happen. If you listen to the radio broadcast, you know that color announcer Jerry Miller finds all kinds of tough trivia questions. Ones that will really challenge your mind.

One a few weeks ago was something to the extent of "can you get four recorded outs in an inning?"

Well, sure you can. We found that out Sunday.

Troy and ULL were tied at 1-all in the third. Runners on 2nd and 3rd with 1 out after a double steal with ULL's No. 2 hitter up, Greg Fontenot.

Fontenot lifts a fly ball to center. Daniel Peterson, who really had a great day on Senior Day, which was great to see after the leg injury in '08 negatively impacted his career, comes running on. He makes a diving catch.

I thought the runner on third, Trask Switzenberg, left early on the first instinct. But Peterson threw toward the plate. It was cut off in the infield. For some reason, ULL's Alex Fuselier went toward third, and he was eventually tagged out in a rundown for a double play and out No. 3.

End of inning, and ULL should be up 2-1. But Troy appealed to third that Switzenberg left early, and the umpire wasted no time calling him out. The run was wiped off the board, and the "fourth out" had to be recorded.

If Jerry's trivia question about "How can you record a triple play with no fielder touching the ball?" comes true, better brace yourselves for the end times.

Troy has an automatic win, but RPI dropper, Tuesday at Florida A&M (thanks to Kennesaw State not wanting to play Troy any more). The next series is at ULM, and the Warhawks will be fighting hard next weekend to stay alive for the conference tournament, which will be held at ULM. Troy hasn't been great on the road, but will need a good showing in Monroe next weekend.

STANDINGS
1 - Troy (17-7)
2 - FIU (16-8)
3 - ULL (14-10)
3 - WKU (14-10)
3 - FAU (14-10)
6 - USA (12-12)
7 - ASU (10-14)
8 - UALR (8-16)
9 - ULM (7-17)
9 - MTSU (7-17)

I'm not sure how the tiebreakers work for that 3-way tie in third right now.

It looks like the title will come down to Troy and FIU, and Troy holds the tiebreaker for the 1 seed (now for the football diehards, wouldn't that be a hoot if Troy and FIU end up tied in the standings?)

FIU has two home series, against Arkansas State and Florida Atlantic in that order

Troy is at UL-Monroe and South Alabama in that order.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

ULL turns the tables

This one turned into a rout early, as ULL took a 17-1 win over the Trojans in Game 2.

Troy's Jimmy Hodgskin (2-5) seemed to have good stuff, but his problem has been a lack of control. That's typical for most freshmen, and when you watch the hard-throwing lefty pitch, you know how good he can be when his command is on.

But he's been walking too many guys, and not getting past the fifth or sixth inning. This time, he couldn't get out of the fourth, and Ryan Sorce struggled again, and before you know it, ULL led 6-1 early.

Troy coaches then turned to some down-the-line guys to try to step up and earn spots, but none of them did well. Ever since Drew Hull got hurt, Troy's pitching depth dropped significantly.

Trojans will throw sophomore LHP Shane McCain on Sunday, and I plan to be there (I wasn't there Saturday night). McCain has gone deep in some midweek starts, and he'll have to turn in a quality start if the Trojans want to win their first Sun Belt series against ULL.

Follow me on twitter at twitter.com/dothaneagletroy

Ray dominates, Bryant sets record

and Troy knocks off UL-Lafayette 7-1. Adam Bryant is your new career hits leader at Troy, now with 254. His 253rd, an RBI single in the third inning to give Troy a 1-0 lead, broke Clint Robinson's record. Troy had 16 hits, 10 off ULL starter Taylor Hubbell, who is a major step down from the Friday night starters of ULL past.

I get the feeling ULL's more talented, higher-upside guys are pitching Saturday and Sunday, but we'll see.

Tyler Ray threw the best game I've ever seen a Troy pitcher pitch, in his masterful 4-hit complete game. He struck out 10, walked none, improved to 11-0 and dropped his ERA to 1.68.

Bryant and Tyler Hannah had three hits each. Troy is 3 games ahead of ULL in the Sun Belt, and 2 ahead of FAU and FIU.

HERE is the game story.

Some video

Friday, May 6, 2011

Troy ready for Cajun challenge



Troy hosts UL-Lafayette this weekend in the final home conference weekend of the year. It's a big weekend, as Troy is 2 games ahead of 3 other teams, including ULL. Troy has never had any success against ULL and the Ragin' Cajuns swept Troy in Lafayette last year (and took 2 of 3 at Troy in 2009 and 2007).

Meanwhile, the story I wrote this week is on Troy's leading hitter, third baseman Tyler Hannah (Troy University photo). Hannah has an interesting story - good prospect out of JUCO, went to Tennessee, didn't like it and had every intention of just leaving UT after the fall 2009 semester, transferring elsewhere to finish up his degree and never play baseball again.

But enough influences who knew he was good enough to play Division I baseball stepped in, and Hannah wound up at Troy. Troy coaches didn't recruit him out of JUCO because he was a shortstop, and they had Adam Bryant at short.

No worries, as Hannah used last year as a redshirt and has settled in at third base. Next season, when Bryant moves on, look for Hannah to be the team's shortstop.

Read the story HERE.

***In other pitching notes, the Trojans are changing the rotation this weekend, coach Bobby Pierce said. Tyler Ray (Jr., RHP, 10-0), will pitch Friday as usual. Freshman LHP Jimmy Hodgskin gets moved up to Saturday, while sophomore LHP Shane McCain will pitch Sunday.

Ryan Sorce is moving back to the bullpen. He struggled last week with hydration issues in a short starting stint against FAU, and has been much better in the bullpen. Remember, Troy's pitching staff took a huge hit when Drew Hull was lost for the season with elbow surgery.

***Wanted to share some information about Troy's baseball recruiting class. The Trojans added four spring signees for next season.

Trojans are pretty much done with recruiting, unless guys go pro early or transfer out early, which usually happens. It looks like a pretty good class.

I think the top pro prospect is Houston Academy outfielder Jo-El Bennett, who went 6-for-7 with 8 RBIs (also 4 intentional BBs) in a 3-game series win in the 2nd round over G.W. Long. In the first round, Bennett was the winning pitcher and hit two home runs in the first game of a 2-game series sweep over Class 2A No. 2 Wicksburg. The Raiders, who have a losing record, play at Thorsby this weekend.

He'll have options. If he ends up at Troy, I'd expect him to be an early contributor. Here's a look at the rest of the signees.

Blake Barber, SS/2B, 5-9, 165,S/R LaGrange, Ga. Dublin HS/Shelton State CC
Jo-El Bennett, OF, 6-2, 185, R/R Midland City, Ala. Houston Academy
Ryan Brady, RHP, 6-0, 190, R/R Trussville, Ala. Hewitt-Trussville HS/NW Shoals CC
Brandon Brown,C, 6-4, 190, R/R Dublin, Ga. Dublin HS/Middle Georgia College
Danny Collins, 3B, 6-2, 200 R/R Niceville, Fla. Niceville HS/Alabama/NW Florida State
Peyton Fuller, P/IF, 5-11, 180, R/R Fairhope, Ala. Fairhope HS
Austin Golden, SS/2B, 5-10, 180 R/R Cullman, Ala. Cullman HS/Northwest Shoals CC
Jake Harrell, C ,5-11, 190, R/R Ashford, Ala. Rehobeth HS
Joseph Hernandez,RHP, 5-11, 180 R/R Mobile, Ala. Baker HS/Faulkner State CC
Chase Mathis, OF, 5-11 185 L/R Cullman, Ala. Cullman HS/Wallace State CC
Adam Purdy,RHP 6-4 220 R/R Pell City, Ala. Pell City HS/Auburn/Gulf Coast CC
Hunter Skipper, LHP/OF 6-4 195 L/L Rehobeth, Ala. Rehobeth HS

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Trojans battle back, beat JSU

Down 6-1 early, Troy battled back and beat Jacksonville State 8-7 in 11 innings on a cold and rainy night in Troy. Josh McDorman had a pinch-hit RBI double to score Daniel Peterson for the win.

Troy is now 32-13.The RPI on WarrenNolan.com is at 38. Good friend Mark Etheridge of SEBaseball.com projects Troy as a 3 seed in a regional at Stetson, facing Miami in the opener. I'd like to see that.

The game recap is HERE.

Adam Bryant is now Troy's total bases leader with 426. He is one hit behind Clint Robinson (253) for the school record for career hits.

Therefore, since I found out I'll be covering the Friday game vs. ULL, it would benefit me and the Dothan Eagle if Bryant is able to break the record that night. No pressure.

That's a big series, though, as Troy has never had any success vs. ULL and the Trojans need to do what they've been doing at home and that's handling its opponents.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Troy adds fourth signee of spring

Troy has signed Daronte Clark, a 6-foot-2 shooting guard from Northwest Florida State Community College, head coach Don Maestri confirmed Tuesday.

Clark was a qualifier out of high school and he will be a sophomore this fall.

Clark is one of four signees this spring, and I imagine there will be more. The other three are:

**Justin Wright (6-foot-6 forward from Pensacola Junior College)
**Alan Jones (5-foot-11 guard from Southeastern Illinois CC)
**Breon Dixon (6-foot-8 forward from Tift County High School in GA

Fall signees are
**Emil Jones (6-foot-3 forward from Pearl River CC)
**Deonta Jethroe (6-foot-4 guard from Alabama Southern CC)

Jethroe will be a sophomore this fall, Dixon a freshman, and Jones/Jones/Wright will be juniors.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Some football notes

The Sun Belt held a teleconference for its coaches this morning. I was able to call in and participate in the segment when Larry Blakeney was on.

Blakeney mentioned several key players as missing all or most of spring - cornerback Chris Pickett, OL Kyle Wilborn and Jacob Creech, DL Emmanuel Dudley and John Clark, WR Brett Moncrief and S Barry Valcin. The hope is that all will be ready to go by fall practice.

The Trojans lost four starting receivers and three starting OL. The WR corps will look different, with more bigger guys who can stretch the field.

"We'll have to be a different offensive team than we were last year," Blakeney said. "We're bigger than we have been at wide receiver with some speed, but it's still a work in progress. It's still a jigsaw puzzle we're trying to put together.

"If we can get these guys in the proper places, we've got a chance to be better on the offensive line than we have been."

Troy loses three starters on defense - FS Willard Ross, LB Daniel Sheffield and DE Mario Addison.

"We should have more depth than we've had (defensively)," Blakeney said. "We can be a better football team defensively and we have to be a versatile team defensively to deal with the different offenses our schedule provides us and this league provides us."

Troy will also be different at tight end. Blakeney mentioned a couple of guys who are in the 6-5, 6-6 range in Jim Teknipp and Gavin Ellis, "big, tall rangy guys who can run a little bit and still block the C-gap."

Blakeney also mentioned that he hopes the Trojans can be much better in the secondary; added depth will help there, as will the return of Valcin, who missed last year with an ankle injury. He said some interior defensive line guys need to grow up, and when Dudley and Clark return from injury, that group will be better.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Baseball loses series at FAU

It wasn't as bad as the weekend at Middle Tennessee, but the Trojans continue to have problems on the road. FAU is a pretty solid veteran team that returned a lot of players from last year, so it's no real surprise the Trojans lost 2 of 3 on the road. And it's not the end of the world, either.

Trojans are back at home this week, hosting Jacksonville State Tuesday and UL-Lafayette next weekend.

GAME 1 BOX SCORE
GAME 2 BOX SCORE
GAME 3 BOX SCORE

Troy is 31-13. Troy's RPI is 41, one spot ahead of FAU, and 7 spots behind FIU.

STANDINGS
Troy (15-6)
FAU (13-8)
FIU (13-8)
ULL (13-8)
WKU (12-9)
ASU (10-11)
South Alabama (9-12)
ULM (7-14)
MTSU (7-14)
UALR (6-15)