This story appears in the Friday print edition of the Dothan Eagle. You can read it on dothaneagle.com HERE.
BY DREW CHAMPLIN | firstname.lastname@example.org
TROY – Boone Shear extended his hitting streak to 11 games and helped keep Troy’s postseason hopes alive with the game-winning RBI single in the ninth, scoring Tyler Vaughn and giving Troy a come-from-behind 7-6 win over South Alabama Thursday.
Troy (25-28, 13-15) currently sits in the fifth spot in the Sun Belt for tournament seeding purposes, and the Trojans need just one more win to clinch a Sun Belt Tournament spot. Joe Hernandez will take the mound in today’s 6 p.m. game at Riddle-Pace Field.
“Huge win for our team,” Troy head coach Bobby Pierce said. “Big momentum boost for us. Now we’ve got to continue and try to get ourselves into the tournament (today) and continue to try to play winning baseball after that.”
Down 6-5 in the bottom of the ninth, Troy did what it’s done best over the last few weeks – fight. Tyler Hannah led off with a walk against USA closer Kyle Bartsch, who has 10 saves this season.
After that, Tyler Vaughn blooped a ball and found a hole in short left field. He turned it into a double. Logan Pierce, a left-handed hitter who was 0-for-4 prior to the at-bat against the lefty Bartsch, hit a deep sacrifice fly to left to score Hannah, but most importantly move Vaughn to third.
Shear then hit his single to left, his only hit of the game, through the drawn-in infield for the win.
“This may be one of the most passionate eighth-ninth inning teams I’ve been a part of,” Vaughn said. “We just don’t quit. It really doesn’t matter if things are going our way or not. We’re going to fight to the end.”
Troy is going for its fifth series win in six weekends today and Saturday, with both games starting at 6 p.m.
Troy rallied from down 4-1 in the fifth to tie it and took a 5-4 lead in the sixth on Jakob Nixon’s RBI single, but the Jaguars got two in the seventh to take a 6-5 lead.
It seems like pressure to ask the Trojans to win one more game, but it’s nothing different than what Troy has faced over the past few weeks just to not let the season get away.
“You call it pressure, you call it what you want,” Shear said. “Our backs have been against the wall all year. We’ve known since week four or week five that we’ve had to win baseball games to get into the postseason. You call it pressure, but we call it an opportunity.”
Troy starter Tyler Ray was charged with six runs (five earned) in six innings. He came out in the seventh, giving way to Nate Hill. With runners on first and second with no outs, Jordan Patterson hit a high line drive to right, which would have been a home run in most parks, but hit high off the 27-foot wall for just an RBI single.
Whitt Dorsey, who was on first, only made it to second base, killing a rally. A fielder’s choice and a double play ended the inning. Hill (6-2) gave up two hits in three scoreless innings of relief to get the win.
“Nate is such a competitor on the mound,” Bobby Pierce said. “He did what we had to have him do, which is hold them. We had to make some nice defensive plays behind him and we were able to do that.”
Nolan Earley hit the second pitch of the game off Ray for a solo homer in the first. Nixon’s solo homer in the second tied the game at 1-all.
In the fifth, Troy got three clutch two-out hits to score three runs. Clay Holcomb singled and Hannah doubled down the line, scoring Holcomb and Jake Harrell, who was hit by a pitch earlier in the inning. Vaughn’s single scored Hannah to tie the game.
One more win gets Troy into the Sun Belt Tournament, but that’s not enough in the minds of Troy players.
“We’re just thinking sweep,” Vaughn said. “We’ve got to win games and we want to have momentum going into the tournament. We want to win games and hopefully start rolling.”