|Troy takes batting practice at UALR's field Thursday night/John Rushing photo|
Troy returns to Sun Belt play this weekend, and it’ll be another challenge on the road. Troy (10-9, 1-2 Sun Belt) is coming off a 9-0 win over Alabama, but lost two out of three last weekend at South Alabama.
Arkansas-Little Rock, which won the Sun Belt Tournament last year as the No. 8 seed, is 13-8, but 0-3 in Sun Belt play after getting swept at Arkansas State last weekend. Troy and UALR play in Little Rock this weekend, with games Friday at 6, Saturday at 4 and Sunday at 1.
“They’re a tough, scrappy team off to a pretty good start,” Troy head coach Bobby Pierce said. “Tough place for us to go in and play, or it has been historically. They’re on the rise in our league and they’ve always been looking forward to games like this.
“We’ve got to meet that challenge. We’ve got to play good, solid baseball to get our team on track in conference play.”
Troy is battling the injury bug, as three key players got hurt last weekend at South Alabama. Starting center fielder Clay Holcomb got hit in the arm with a pitch on Saturday, and Pierce said on Tuesday that he would be in a cast for 10 days.
“It’s not a break, but it’s a severe bruise and they want to stabilize it to try to get it to heal,” Pierce said.
Pitcher Jimmy Hodgskin was hit in the thumb under his glove on his right hand with a batted ball, and pitcher Chris Fisher was hit with a hard grounder on the foot.
“The bad news wasn’t as bad as it could have been,” Pierce said Tuesday. “Those guys should be OK for the weekend – not Holcomb, but Hodgskin and Fisher – but it is a day-to-day thing.”
However, when Troy announced its pitching rotations, the Saturday and Sunday games had TBA behind Tyler Ray (2-1, 2.52) on Saturday. The TBA on Saturday is related to Hodgskin’s injury, as he is normally the starting pitcher on Saturday.
Troy has tried several pitchers in the Sunday role. Ryan Brady threw 4 2/3 shutout innings against Alabama on Tuesday, throwing 66 pitches, and could be ready for a Sunday start.
“I think we saw enough to continue to give him the ball,” Pierce said. “Whether it’s this weekend or not will depend on how he recovers.”
UALR’s pitchers will be junior righty Chance Cleveland (4-1, 3.45) on Friday, junior right-hander Blake Huffman (3-1, 3.64) on Saturday and sophomore right-hander Ethan Schlechte (1-0, 3.06) on Sunday.
UALR’s Ben Bignall has hit nine home runs (second-best in the NCAA) and driven in 35 runs (tops in the NCAA) this season. Ben Crumpton is hitting .396, Cameron Bentley and Bignall are each hitting .375, Chris Burk is hitting .357 and Blake Johnson is hitting .326.
First baseman Logan Pierce leads Troy hitting .352 with two homers and 13 RBIs. Shortstop Tyler Hannah is hitting .343. Designated hitter Danny Collins is hitting .325 with three home runs and 15 RBIs and outfielder Boone Shear has three home runs and a team-best 27 RBIs.
Third baseman Austin Golden entered the lineup recently and in 31 at-bats, he’s hitting .387.