BY DREW CHAMPLIN | email@example.com
TROY – Troy completed its third straight Sun Belt series win and fourth series win in its last five tries, taking two of three from Louisiana-Monroe. But in the race to clinch a berth in the conference tournament, Saturday’s second game of a doubleheader with the Warhawks stung a little bit.
The Trojans won the first game 5-1, powered by strong pitching and a three-run homer from Boone Shear, but lost 4-3 in the second game in 10 innings. With the game tied 1-1, ULM scored three in the top of the 10th – two unearned – before Troy got two on a single by Logan Pierce. ULM closer Wil Browning struck out Boone Shear and got Danny Collins to ground out to avoid the sweep.
Troy is now 24-27, 12-15 in Sun Belt play with next weekend’s series against South Alabama remaining. ULM is 25-26, 12-15. The teams played a doubleheader Saturday to avoid rain on Sunday, but had two delays because of rain and lightning late in the second game.
“Ultimately we’re pretty happy with winning a series,” Troy second baseman Tyler Vaughn said. “We had a chance to sweep and it’s hard to let that get away, but ultimately it’s a good series win.”
In percentage points, Troy and ULM are tied with Western Kentucky (11-14) for seventh place. The jumbled mess that is the Sun Belt Conference will sort itself out today and next Thursday through Sunday as teams shoot for one of the eight seeds.
Troy, which has turned things around after losing four Sun Belt series to open conference play, is aiming to be in that mix.
“There’s a lot of things to like even though we lost the final game,” Troy head coach Bobby Pierce said. “That does bite a little bit because that win would have really helped us out.
“This team has battled very hard in the second half, especially here lately. I’d love to see them finish this off, get in the tournament and see what can happen there.”
It was 1-1 in the top of the tenth and teams went on the field after a 34-minute lightning delay. Judd Edwards led off with a double to center that center fielder Clay Holcomb crashed into the wall and nearly ran down. Taylor Abdalla bunted him over to third and reached when losing pitcher Thomas Austin (3-4) – who got the save in the first game – threw wild to first.
Chris Dudley, who struck out three times prior, doubled in two runs and he scored on Caleb Clowers’ RBI single.
In the 10th , Tyler Hannah walked and Vaughn doubled before Logan Pierce’s two-run single and the final two outs.
Troy had only four hits against ULM starter Cale Wine in 7.2 innings and got two off Browning in the 10th . Trojan starter Ryan Brady pitched into the seventh, giving up three hits and striking out four. ULM tied it at 1-1 when Justin Stawychny’s sacrifice fly off Nate Hill – who got the win in the first game – scored Jeremy Sy.
Tyler Hannah drove in the first run for Troy in the third on a sacrifice fly, but the Trojans left the bases loaded in that inning.
“A lot of things that we didn’t quite execute that might have cost us the ball game,” Bobby Pierce said. “Overall, I’m very proud of our play and the way we’ve been competing as of late.”
In the first game, Troy took a 1-0 lead in the fourth on Jake Harrell’s RBI single. ULM tied it in the sixth on a two-out RBI double from Edwards. In Troy’s half of the seventh, Harrell hit a line shot off ULM pitcher Randy Zeigler, who had a hard time finding it and when he did, he fired errantly into right field.
Harrell took second and his pinch runner, Brandon Brown, scored on Jakob Nixon’s RBI single.
The Trojans put it out of reach in the ninth when Shear launched a three-run homer to left, his ninth of the season.
Hill (5-2) got the win in 1.2 innings of relief. Starter Joe Hernandez gave up just four hits while pitching into the sixth. Austin pitched two scoreless innings for his third save.
Earlier in the game, Harrell had some misfortune as a ball ricocheted off ULM’s Joey Rapp, who was hit by a pitch, and off the lower left ear of Harrell. He stayed in the game and picked up his two hits after the injury. In between games, he got his ear stitched up and came back to play the entire second game.
Troy is at Alabama Tuesday night.