Thursday, May 31, 2012

Three football players gone

Troy head football coach Larry Blakeney said that quarterback Luke Barnes, linebacker Brandon Powe and safety Angelo Hadley wouldn't be back with the team.

Barnes, who redshirted last year, is heading to junior college to work on his grades.

"We hope he can get back with us," Blakeney said. "There is a plan in place."

Hadley had 28 tackles last year as a reserve. Powe had just transferred in January from junior college. Both violated a team and/or university policy, Blakeney said, and neither will be back.

"Powe didn't express to us that he wanted to come back, but he also wasn't invited to come back," Blakeney said.

Postseason baseball notes

Troy is working to get back into a regional, as the Trojans played at Vanderbilt in 2011.
 
Just had a nice chat with coach Bobby Pierce about where things are. I'll turn this into a print story sometime next week when the spring/summer signees are released by the school, and they will fill some needs there with probably four JUCO players.

Troy won 6 of its last 7 three-game sets, if you include the tournament, and lose four seniors going to next year. Troy usually had fewer than the allotted 27 roster spots for conference games because of injuries and defections but the Trojans were still able to finish strong.

"No doubt about that (it gives us offseason momentum)," Pierce said. "I'm very encouraged with the way our team rallied in the second half of the season. The fact we ended on a very positive note, despite unfortunately not reaching the Sun Belt Tournament championship even though we went 2-1, it certainly should build momentum for next year. The challenge is for our team to get back to the upper echelon of the Sun Belt Conference."

***Pierce is still a strong advocate for round robin play in the Sun Belt Tournament. When the coaches in the conference debated this, they voted to do it on a two-year trial run. They'll vote again on the issue in August. Pros are that (1) Teams are better prepared for a regional with fewer games (2) the host team gets a 3-gate minimum to help with expenses and (3) each team knows who they are playing, what day and what time. The "con" is a belief that there are "meaningless games" to be played when the pool champions are already decided, but Pierce said he doesn't believe in "meaningless games" because they can give young players experience and give a team a chance to finish the season with a win, etc.

***The MLB Draft is early next week and three seniors - Tyler Ray, Tyler Hannah and Boone Shear - have a chance to get picked somewhere. Pierce doesn't think any underclassmen or signees would be drafted high enough to sign.

***From the fall signees, some immediate pitching help will come from some talented players. RHP Tanner Hicks went 10-1 with a 2.76 ERA at Central Alabama Community College and will challenge for the No. 1 spot. RHP Will Starling pitched Southern Union to the World Series as a freshman and didn't have quite as good of a sophomore year, but is expected to compete for a weekend spot. Starling went 5-6, 4.85 ERA, 4 saves this year but was 11-4, 2.89 ERA as a freshman. At the back end, Matthew Howard (5-2, 1.46 ERA, 9 saves) from Northwest Florida State is a 2-time Fireman of the Year (award for closers). Trae Santos, a LHP/1B/OF from NW Florida State, can also come in and help. Santos was 1-2 with a 3.00 ERA in 15 IP, but hit .311 with a team-best 5 HR and 25 RBIs. Freshman LHP Levi Tate from Enterprise will also get a long look.

Some bad news, as talented LHP signee Ben Tidwell is scheduled to meet with Dr. James Andrews and could be facing surgery.

***Some guys coming off injuries are progressing well. Pierce said LHPs Ryan Sorce and Shane McCain, key contributors in 2011, are on track. First baseman Kyle Brown had a second hip surgery but should be fine. RHP Adam Purdy will be ready for fall after ankle/foot surgery. RHP William Shell wasn't on the roster this year because he suffered an Achilles injury over winter break. OF Josh McDorman should be ready to go after shoulder surgery. He played a little bit this year but should get a medical redshirt. Catcher Brandon Brown played most of the year with a torn ligament in his thumb, but he'll get that fixed this summer.

***Outfielder Hayden Hillyer told coaches he was transferring to a smaller school, but not sure where yet.

***The summer comes at a good time for pitchers Thomas Austin and Nate Hill, both of whom took a heavy workload but will be resting this summer for their senior years. Hill has 35 appearances, 79 IP, a 7-2 record with a 3.53 ERA. Austin went 3-5 with a 2.80 ERA in 32 appearances/64 IPs.

***Some Troy players will be playing in summer leagues. LHP Jimmy Hodgskin is playing in the Cape Cod League for Hyannis. 1B Logan Pierce is playing for the Vermont Mountaineers of the New England Collegiate League. 3B Danny Collins is also playing in that league. OF Clay Holcomb is playing in a Perfect Game League in New York. Others will play in some nearby leagues.

***Troy is tentatively scheduled to open up next year against Florida A&M. Trojans are having a hard time getting quality teams on the schedule out of conference. Auburn won't play them anymore, and Alabama is back to only playing them in Tuscaloosa.

***All in all, I think Troy has a chance to be pretty good next year. The offense will be there, the defense will be there with a good shortstop (and that should be addressed with the spring signings). The key will be pitching - they just need to have better luck with injuries and have more guys pitching well as the season goes on.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Anderson finds his way to Canada

Jimmie Anderson, shown before the WKU game, is currently in Edmonton (Lamar Higgins photo)

Former Troy cornerback Jimmie Anderson didn't get too discouraged when no NFL team chose him in the recent NFL Draft. He had a pretty good option waiting up north.

Anderson, who started for most of the 2010 and 2011 seasons, is now in Edmonton, going through camp with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League. Anderson had two interceptions and 37 tackles last year, missing two games after his appendix came out, and three interceptions in 2010.

"They (Eskimos personnel) came to the Arkansas State game and told me they were interested," Anderson said. "They also came to our Pro Day (at Troy). They had me come up there and I met some people and they told me they wanted me to come play for them. The NFL Draft came and went but I couldn't pass up an opportunity like this, so I decided to come here."

Anderson got to Edmonton on Tuesday and began practice on Wednesday. Edmonton is in Alberta, just below the center of the Canadian province.

"It's cold," Anderson said. "It's a lot different from Alabama and Texas. When we woke up, it was 40 degrees and during the day, it's 60-something. The sun doesn't go down until 11:30. When I woke up at 5 a.m., the sun was already back up."

Anderson didn't know anyone when he got to Edmonton, but there are some familiar names on the roster for national college football fans, including former Oregon/Ole Miss quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.

Anderson is trying to earn a spot on the regular season roster during camp. The Eskimos have two preseason games - June 15 at Calgary and June 21 at home vs. British Columbia. The season opener is June 30 at home against Toronto.

Along with the different geographic climate, the CFL also has different rules than the NFL, which is where Anderson aspires to be one day. The field is 110 yards long and there are 12 players on each side of the ball instead of 11. Three receivers can be in motion at once, and inside receivers can get a 10-yard head start behind the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped. Anderson has been working as an inside cornerback.


"The competition isn't really much different, but I'm always working hard," Anderson said. "I'm trying to play as long as I can play and hopefully I can get back to the states (to play)."

Monday, May 28, 2012

Catching back up

After a week of vacation, it's sort of nice to be sitting in the office on Memorial Day watching Heat-Celtics and proofing pages. Meanwhile, here's what's going on.

***Troy's baseball team finished up the year 28-30, starting the Sun Belt Tournament strong with wins over 3-seed FIU and 2-seed Arkansas State, but a loss to 7-seed Middle Tennessee on Saturday morning meant the end of the season. In pool play, all it takes is one loss. Troy finished the year winning 6 of its last 7 3-game series, as the SBC Tournament was a 3-game series, but didn't have enough gas in the tank to get a sweep in any of those. Going 28-30 was a disappointment, since the Trojans were picked tied for first with FIU. It capped off a year in Troy athletics where the only positives in all sports can be defined as "a few nice wins" or "a few nice stretches here and there." But the baseball Trojans were pretty good in the second half of the year after a rough first half. The optimism for Troy is that only four seniors depart and most of the 2012 regulars will not only be back in 2013, but also in 2014. Brilliant performances from Tyler Ray, Nate Hill and Danny Collins earned them spots on the all-tournament team. I'll try to get a recap/lookahead for baseball in the next few days. ULM won the tournament and is the Sun Belt's lone regional team, playing LSU first on Friday.

Troy was 6-5 against NCAA regional teams, going 2-1 vs. ULM, 2-1 vs. Bethune-Cookman, 1-1 vs. Samford, 0-2 vs. UAB and 1-0 vs. East Carolina.

It looks like the last remaining Troy competitor is javelin thrower Martins Pildavs, who competes in the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa June 6-9.

***The Sun Belt announced a new league member in UT-Arlington, which will compete in all non-football sports. The Mavericks give the Sun Belt a presence again in the Dallas-Fort Worth market, and they're actually closer than North Texas was (but without the football). UTA will bring a baseball presence immediately, as the Mavericks are going to the NCAA Regionals after winning the Southland Tournament. UTA's inclusion begins July 1, 2013. There will be 10 football teams and 12 in other sports, divided into 2 divisions. WEST is UTA, Texas State, UL-Monroe, UL-Lafayette, Arkansas State and UALR. EAST is Troy, South Alabama, Middle Tennessee, Western Kentucky, Georgia State and Florida Atlantic. That's a tough basketball division.

The link above has some stuff from the Sun Belt spring meetings.

Bigger news indicate for sure that the Sun Belt isn't pursuing New Mexico State and Idaho for football-only membership. It's too bad I didn't start covering Troy until 2005 and missed out on trips to the Kibbie Dome and Las Cruces, when those teams were earlier in the conference.


***Now we focus to football, where you're really reminded it's here if you go to the Sun Belt's main site and see the upcoming events as football games, such as McNeese State vs. Middle Tennessee and South Alabama vs. UTSA on Aug. 30.

If you read PreSnapRead like I do, and its countdown, you probably read about Troy checking in at No. 100. Other Troy opponents so far, and Paul does a daily countdown, are as follows: North Texas (102), Middle Tennessee (114), Florida Atlantic (116), UAB (117), South Alabama (123). ULM rotates off Troy's schedule, but the Warhawks are at 107. Texas State joins the Sun Belt for 2013 and is at 121.

It's almost the end of May, and fall practice should start around the beginning of August. The next big moment is Sun Belt Media Day, which goes back to New Orleans on July 16.

***This article is a couple of weeks old, but it said that former Trojan OL James Brown was impressive in Bears rookie camp, and also alluded to why he wasn't drafted. Also of note, former cornerback Jimmie Anderson reached a deal with the Edmonton Eskimos last week of the CFL and will be headed up that way shortly.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

This week

Guys, won't be around this week. Here is Troy's schedule, and look for a Troy baseball Sun Belt Tournament preview on dothaneagle.com on Wednesday or Thursday. It may get linked on the blog on this post.

Tournament preview on dothaneagle.com
Sun Belt all-conference teams.

Will make sure results from Troy's tournament games get linked, but here's the schedule.

THU - 11 a.m., Troy vs. FIU (Troy wins 6-1, recap and box)
FRI - 3 p.m., Troy vs. Arkansas State (Troy wins 8-3, recap and box)
SAT - 11 a.m., Troy vs. Middle Tennessee (MTSU wins 8-5, recap and box)

(Troy finished 2-1 in its pool, tied with Arkansas State and MTSU while FIU went 0-3. ASU won the 3-way tiebreaker as a result of being the higher-seeded team at No. 2)
SUN - 1 p.m., Sun Belt Tournament Championship, on CSS/CST (No. 2 Arkansas State vs. No. 5 ULM for an NCAA regional spot)

Sun Belt Tournament schedule

Tournament is in Bowling Green, Ky.
(From the Sun Belt Conference)
SEEDS
1 - FAU
2 - Arkansas State
3 - FIU
4 - South Alabama
5 - UL-Monroe
6 - Troy
7 - MTSU
8 - WKU

Each game of the championship, excluding the championship on Sunday, will be streamed live on SunBeltSports.org. The championship game on Sunday, May 27 will be televised live by the Sun Belt Network, beginning at 1 p.m. CDT. 


Wednesday, May 23
G1 (5) Louisiana-Monroe vs. (4) South Alabama 11 a.m.
G2 (7) Middle Tennessee vs. (2) Arkansas State 3 p.m.
G3 (8) Western Kentucky vs. (1) Florida Atlantic 7 p.m.
(FIU and Troy are off)
Thursday, May 24
G4 (6) Troy vs. (3) FIU 11 a.m.
G5 (1) Florida Atlantic vs. (5) Louisiana-Monroe 3 p.m.
G6 (4) South Alabama vs. (8) Western Kentucky 7 p.m.
(ASU and MTSU are off)
Friday, May 25
G7 (3) FIU vs. (7) Middle Tennessee 11 a.m.
G8 (2) Arkansas State vs. (6) Troy 3 p.m.
G9* (1) Florida Atlantic vs. (4) South Alabama 7 p.m.
(ULM and WKU are off)
Saturday, May 26
G10* (6) Troy vs. (7) Middle Tennessee 11 a.m.
G11* (2) Arkansas State vs. (3) FIU 3 p.m.
G12* (5) Louisiana-Monroe vs. (8) Western Kentucky 7 p.m.
(FAU and USA are off)
Championship Sunday, May 27
13 Pool A Champion vs. Pool B Champion              1p.m.

Game story: Troy 8, South Alabama 5

Pretty entertaining first and last games. I was glad to be there. Troy's odds of winning the Sun Belt Tournament may not be high, especially with injuries and no legit bye, but the Trojans won't be an easy out for anybody.

Meanwhile, this is the story in the Sunday Dothan Eagle. It can be found on dothaneagle.com HERE and you can check out the box score HERE.
----------------------------------------------------------
BY DREW CHAMPLIN | dchamplin@dothaneagle.com

TROY – Troy players got the message before Saturday’s regular season finale with South Alabama that they had clinched a spot into the Sun Belt Tournament, but the Trojans still went out and played with a purpose.

Troy got clutch home runs from Tyler Hannah and Jakob Nixon and some quality pitching and beat South Alabama 8-5. The Trojans (26-29, 14-16 Sun Belt) go into the Sun Belt Tournament as the No. 6 seed, and will play third-seeded FIU on Thursday.

It’s a round robin tournament, so Troy will play No. 2 Arkansas State on Friday and No. 7 Middle Tennessee on Saturday. The two pool winners play Sunday in the championship.

Troy also won its fourth straight series to close the regular season, and fifth out of the last six. Assistant coach Mark Smartt told the team during batting practice that a tournament spot was cemented after Arkansas-Little Rock lost to Arkansas State earlier Saturday.

“I could see the happy sigh of relief, like some weight was taken off of them,” Troy head coach Bobby Pierce said. “A lot of people would characterize it as Little Rock lost and we got in. I say we won our last five (of six) series and that’s how we got in.”

Troy was down 2-0 after one-half inning, but got a run in the first and took a 4-2 lead in the third on an RBI double from Logan Pierce and RBI singles from Danny Collins and Chase Mathis.

Hannah’s two-run homer in the fourth gave Troy a 6-3 lead, and after South Alabama (21-33, 15-15) closed the gap to 6-5 in the seventh, Nixon hit a two-run shot in the eighth for the final margin.

Hannah, one of four seniors, had a big night. He went 3-for-5 with his fifth home run of the season, had two RBIs, scored three runs and made a leaping catch on a liner to end the fifth after South Alabama had put together a two-out rally. Hannah was also part of two infield double plays.

“I still wanted to go out with a bang,” Hannah said. “I was hoping to get a couple of hits, of course win and make some plays. I think I accomplished that tonight. I felt great about the night.”

Troy starter Ryan Brady got the win, throwing five innings and giving up seven hits and four earned runs. Brady got out of a jam in the first inning, holding the Jaguars to just two runs.

A.J. Howard, a senior from Houston County, pitched a scoreless sixth. USA got two hits and a run off Ivan Carter in the seventh, but with one out in the seventh and runners on second and third, Troy called on relief ace Nate Hill for the third straight night, and he did the job.

Hill got the win Thursday, but gave up four runs in one inning Friday in an 11-3 loss. The junior left-hander wanted to pitch an inning Saturday to work out some kinks. He did just that, throwing 2 2/3 innings of hitless ball to get his fourth save.

Hill (6-2, 3.91 ERA) leads Troy with 33 appearances and is second with 71 1/3 innings and 66 strikeouts. He credited athletic trainer Sean Boland for getting his arm durable enough to pitch that much.

“Sean gets me right before the game,” Hill said. “I went over to the training room before the game and got ice and all that good stuff. It’s a combination of that and I don’t have to throw max effort because I’m throwing so much offspeed (pitches).”

The Sun Belt Tournament game times will be announced today. The tournament begins Wednesday, but Troy has a bye and won’t play until Thursday.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Troy is in SBC Tournament

Troy hosting South Alabama for the season's final home game.
Checking in from Troy, where about 3 p.m., Trojan players found out they are in the Sun Belt Tournament by way of UALR's loss.

In the first inning, Troy is down 2-0 to South Alabama. If Troy loses, the Trojans will be the 8 seed regardless. ULM and ULL are also playing right now.

If Troy and ULM wins, Troy is the 6 seed. That's not ideal because in the round robin tournament, the 6 seed has a bye on the first day and would have to win four games in four days to get the automatic berth in the NCAA regionals (the 3 seed, which will either be FIU or USA, is in the same boat).

If Troy and ULL win, Troy is the 5 seed and would play South Alabama in the first game Wednesday and be in the same bracket as top-seeded FAU and 8-seed Western Kentucky. The tournament is at the minor league field in Bowling Green with WKU as the host.

9:30 p.m. EDIT - Troy will be the 6 seed and is in a bracket with FIU, Arkansas State and MTSU. Troy has a bye Wednesday so must win four games in four days if they want to reach the regionals. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Trojans fall in second game

Not a good way to bounce back from a come-from-behind win, as South Alabama wins 11-3. The Jaguars don't have great stats and are just 21-32 overall, but man, they just get single after single after single and don't strike out much.

Recap HERE and box score HERE.

ULM and Western Kentucky clinched tournament bids tonight with wins. Troy is 13-16, in a three-way tie for sixth with Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky. Troy would be seeded seventh in that scenario, WKU sixth and MTSU 8th. UALR is now 12-17, and ULL has been eliminated from tournament consideration.

Troy and South Alabama play Game 3 Saturday at 6 p.m., and it's televised down here on CSS. Now, if UALR loses earlier in the afternoon, Troy is automatically in the tournament. I'm not really sure if a loser in the early-afternoon MTSU/WKU game will get Troy in. Obviously, a Troy win gets Troy in.

Stay tuned. I'll be at the game and will post some updates on twitter @dothaneagletroy.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Game story Troy 7, South Alabama 6

This story appears in the Friday print edition of the Dothan Eagle. You can read it on dothaneagle.com HERE.

BY DREW CHAMPLIN | dchamplin@dothaneagle.com

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.”

Troy rallies to beat South Alabama

Troy scored 2 in the ninth for a 7-6 win over South Alabama. Boone Shear's single scored Tyler Vaughn, who had doubled, for the win. Here's some video of Vaughn, and game story will be posted soon.

Troy is now 13-15 in the Sun Belt and would be fifth if the tournament started today. It doesn't, as teams have two more games left, and one win clinches a spot.

Trojans host South Alabama for final series

Danny Collins is Troy's top home run leader with 11 (Lisa Ray photo via Troy University)
Troy's regular season ends this weekend with a Thursday-Saturday home series against South Alabama. All three games are at 6 p.m. and the Saturday game is on CSS. All indications are that if Troy wins 2 of 3, the Trojans are in the Sun Belt Tournament. TV/Radio/other series information is HERE. South Alabama stats are HERE. The Jags have been good in conference, not so much outside conference.

I will be at the Thursday and Saturday games providing twitter updates @dothaneagletroy. This advance below ran in the Thursday print edition of the Dothan Eagle and online at dothaneagle.com, which you can view HERE.

BY DREW CHAMPLIN | dchamplin@dothaneagle.com

TROY – For the second straight year, a season-ending series against South Alabama comes with postseason implications.

Last year, Troy won two of three at South Alabama to clinch the Sun Belt regular season title. This year, the Trojans need two wins to feel good about just getting into next week’s Sun Belt Tournament in Bowling Green, Ky.

Troy (24-28, 12-15 Sun Belt) has won four of its last five series, and the Trojans are in a three-way tie for sixth place with UALR and UL-Monroe. Troy would be seeded sixth in the eight-team tournament if it began today, but those three teams are just a game ahead of Western Kentucky and UL-Lafayette in last place. They’re also just three games behind third-place FIU.

Today begins a three-game series against South Alabama (20-31, 14-13) at Riddle-Pace Field, with games the next three nights at 6 p.m.

“It always comes down to the final weekend for whatever positioning is trying to happen,” Troy head coach Bobby Pierce said.

The Trojans haven’t met preseason expectations of first place in the preseason poll, but the team dealt with injuries and other distractions early on and is just now coming together.

For instance, Troy had nine seniors at the end of last fall, but only four will be honored on Saturday for Senior Day. Pitcher Drew Hull re-tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow in late December, ending his career. He was recovering from elbow surgery last spring.

Outfielder Josh McDorman, after a tremendous fall at the plate, had season-ending shoulder surgery and got a medical redshirt. Catcher Blake Martz and pitchers Tyson Workman and Garrett McHenry aren’t with the team anymore.

The four seniors being honored will be pitchers A.J. Howard and Tyler Ray, shortstop Tyler Hannah and outfielder Boone Shear.

Several others had their seasons affected by injuries. Pitchers Ryan Sorce and Shane McCain had arm surgery last summer. Pitcher Adam Purdy broke his foot in a freak accident crossing the road when Troy went to Bethune-Cookman. Pitcher Jimmy Hodgskin was slated to be the No. 2 starter, but finally pitched in Tuesday’s 10-5 loss at Alabama for the first time in six weeks.

Outfielder Hayden Hillyer broke his foot and is out for the year. Starting center fielder Clay Holcomb missed time with a hand injury. Catchers Jake Harrell (hand) and Brandon Brown (thumb) have been affected by injuries either last fall or this spring. First baseman Kyle Brown had season-ending hip surgery.

“We’ve seen all the adversity and most of the down parts of the year,” first baseman Logan Pierce said. “We’re sticking together and we’ve (created) more team chemistry and more togetherness. We have the guys here now that have the true meaning of all in, all the time.”

Troy has had guys step up this year. Tyler Vaughn stepped into the second base role after two years of limited action and is hitting .318. Recently, Joe Hernandez and Ryan Brady have solidified starting spots in the weekend pitching rotation. The hope is that getting more guys healthy, plus improved morale, will keep the Trojans hot going into the close of the season.

“So many things went against us earlier in the year,” Vaughn said. “Some games we didn’t come out focused and we wanted to play victim a little bit. Some things have turned around and we’re getting a few breaks. All of that, combined with winning, have gotten us going in the right direction.

“We’ve got to come out and attack no matter what. Everyone’s fighting for something and we’re fighting to get in that tournament.”





Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Troy adds point guard signee

Troy finished its five-player recruiting class with the signing of College of Central Florida point guard Hunter Williams.

Williams, 6-foot and 175 pounds, also took official visits to Jacksonville University and FIU, but chose Troy. He is from Ocala, Fla., and went to Forest High School. College of Central Florida is in Ocala.

"It looks like the right place for me where I can blend in academically and as a basketball player," Williams said Wednesday morning. "Coach (Don) Maestri is a guy I'd like to play hard for."

Williams started at point guard for two years and led the Patriots to a Florida state runner-up finish this year.Williams made the All-Mid Florida Conference first team this year. Williams was a key player on CF's run to the state title game. You can read a good bit of information on him at the CFPatriots.com label HERE on Williams throughout his career.


Williams averaged 11.8 points per game this year to go with 4.4 assists per game. As a freshman, Williams scored 10.4 ppg and had 3.7 apg.
"I don't want to say I'm a pure point guard, because I feel like I can shoot and score too," Williams said. "But I like to get other guys in spots where they can be successful and where they can score."

Troy head coach Don Maestri was pleased to add Williams to Troy's team for next season. He joins Pensacola State College guards Antione "Fresh" Myers and Jeff Mullahey, Hill College (Texas) wing player Tevin Calhoun and Brevard (Fla.) Community College center Josh Warren as Troy's recruiting class.

"He has a real complete game," Maestri said. "He can handle and pass the ball, and he's also a very good 3-point shooter. He's a hard-nosed, tough basketball player and one of the things I liked about him is his good basketball I.Q. We're very excited about this recruiting class. These guys have the chemistry we're looking for, and Hunter fits that bill."


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Troy falls to Alabama

Trojans went on the road to Alabama and fell 10-5. Trojans did get Jimmy Hodgskin some work, which is beneficial if they are able to qualify for the Sun Belt Tournament next week. Hodgskin hadn't pitched in a month and a half.

Recap HERE and box score HERE.

Troy's next game is at home against South Alabama Thursday at 6 p.m. for the start of a three-game series.

**HALL OF FAME information. You know who the class is by now, but if you want to go to the induction ceremony, HERE is some important information. The ceremony is August 10, a Friday, at the new Trojan Arena. That'll be a great chance to see the new building if you want to shell out some cash.

**ONE OF MY FAVORITE BLOGS is presnapread.com, and it counts down the teams. Well, checking in at No. 100 is your Troy Trojans. This has an extensive, and fun read of every FBS team in the country, and the countdown with some Troy opponents is on the right side of the page.

Tuesday update

Troy baseball is at Alabama today. It's a weird timing this late in the season and at this point, it's all for pride on both teams. I won't be making the trip from Dothan to Tuscaloosa. For listening/stats info, go HERE. Troy hasn't announced a starting pitcher, but I'd guess several guys will get 1-2 innings each with top bullpen guys like Nate Hill or Thomas Austin resting for this weekend's series with South Alabama.

HERE is an Associated Press story on former Trojan standout Jonathan Massaquoi on how he's dropped weight to try to be more effective like he was in 2010, when he was 15 pounds smaller than he was in 2011. He was certainly never fat, but looked more like a defensive tackle last fall before the season.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sun Belt standings

Headed into the final weekend, which begins Thursday and ends Saturday. The top 8 of 10 teams get into the Sun Belt Tournament, and right now, Troy is on the good side.

1. Florida Atlantic (17-8)
2. Arkansas State (16-9)
3. FIU (15-12)
4. South Alabama (14-13)
5. Middle Tennessee (13-14)
6. UALR (12-15)
7. Troy (12-15)
8. UL-Monroe (12-15)
9. UL-Lafayette (11-16)
10. Western Kentucky (11-16)

I believe those seedings are correct. The 6-7-8 tiebreaker is a weird one, and I think it looks like how I have it because all 3 teams are tied against each other (3-3). UALR and Troy own a 2-1 record over FAU, while ULM is 1-2. UALR took the series over Troy, getting the 6 spot. Troy took series over ULM, getting 7 spot. FIU has a tiebreaker over Troy, so it looks like the best Troy could finish is fourth, unless there's some weird 3 or 4-way ties.

Troy is at Alabama on Tuesday, but here is this week's Sun Belt schedule.

South Alabama at Troy
Arkansas State at UALR
UL-Monroe at UL-Lafayette
Middle Tennessee at Western Kentucky
FIU at Florida Atlantic

Game story: Troy splits with ULM

Troy split the doubleheader Saturday, winning 5-1 and losing 4-3 in 10 innings. A couple of rain delays made me forget about updating the blog earlier. But here's the story in Sunday's print edition and on dothaneagle.com HERE. I'll update Sun Belt standings Sunday night.

BY DREW CHAMPLIN | dchamplin@dothaneagle.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.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Saturday baseball update

Troy vs. ULM. Not really as sunny as it seems in this picture, but good enough to play.
So I'm sitting here for a couple of games at Troy's Riddle-Pace Field. Good time to update.

In the bottom of the 8th, Troy holds a 5-1 lead. It was 1-1 in the bottom of the seventh before Jakob Nixon singled in a run. Now in the 8th, Troy's Boone Shear broke it open with a 3-run homer, giving Troy a 5-1 lead.

Troy has really found itself over the last three weeks and is now playing like a team that has its roles defined and can beat anyone in the conference. There were injuries, ineligibility, ineffectiveness but it's turned into improvement and a more enthused dugout and a team that's now finding ways to win.

Will update more as the day goes along.

5:15 p.m. FINAL - Troy wins the first game 5-1. Game 2 should start around 6 p.m., which is the time today's game would have started anyway without the rain problems.

6:22 p.m. - Third inning, and it's 0-0. I'm currently swamped and surrounded by fans, not seeking my autograph but because they can't handle the rain. Ryan Brady is off to a good start on the mound for the Trojans. Large contingent of ULM fans here, which is odd because it's a long trip from Monroe. Much more visiting fans from there than I've seen from other schools.

6:40 p.m. - Troy leads 1-0 in the fourth. Trojans loaded the bases with no outs, but just got a run.

7:04 p.m. - Bottom 6, Troy still up 1-0. Ryan Brady, who couldn't get out of the first inning last week, has given up just three hits through six. Austin and Hill both threw 25 or fewer pitches in the first game, so they'll be ready for this one if called on. It's raining harder than it was before but I'm not swallowed in by a bunch of fans at this point.

7:21 p.m. - BOT 7, Mathis reached on a walk. Pinch runner Knowles bunted to 2nd by Harrell. ULM tied it in the 7th on a leadoff walk, stolen base, groundout and sac fly to right. Third out came on a triple off the wall and Edwards thrown out in a rundown at home. ULM fans around me weren't happy with coach originally sending him then telling him to get back when it was too late, or something.

Covering up the mound.
7:43 p.m. - As fast as everything was moving, some hard rain comes and the umpires called a delay. No lightning, so I think we'll be back on soon. Headed to the bottom of the 8th, Troy has 1-2-3 due up and they're now taking this tarp off. Score tied 1-1.

Troy wins series opener/DH on Saturday

Troy, winners of five of its last seven Sun Belt games, opened the home series against UL-Monroe with a 9-4 win. Chase Mathis and Danny Collins each homered, and Tyler Ray got the win.

Recap HERE and box score HERE.


Teams have a Saturday doubleheader at 3 p.m. to beat the scheduled rain Sunday. This is a schedule change.

Also, a hearty congratulations to Troy's student-athletes who graduated on Friday.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Troy signee Lindsey arrested

If you heard about the Elba High School vandalism prank gone wrong, well one of the arrested parties was Troy signee Michael Lindsey, the Dothan Eagle Player of the Year last year.

I did briefly speak with head coach Larry Blakeney to send it on to our news side. The news side in our office is handling the entire story, but I had to contribute with this bit.

The charges are felony third-degree burglary.

Blakeney said he was fully aware of the incident and supports Lindsey as it's innocent until proven guilty.
"I have talked to (Lindsey) and I have talked to his coach," Blakeney said. "I support the kid."

You can read the article on dothaneagle.com by Matt Elofson HERE(This link will be updated again at some point by our cops reporter).



From Matt Elofson on dothaneagle.com ...

Elba police have arrested four 18-year-old students on felony burglary charges, including a star player for the school’s football team, for their alleged involvement in the burglary of Elba High School.

According to officials at the Coffee County Jail, four 18-year-olds were booked into the jail within the last two days, including Michael Kendez Canta Lindsey, Antonio Derace Hill, Jquente Kareece Truitt and Sage O’Kendel Kelley.

Coffee County Jail Corrections Cpl. Lynn Davis said all four of them were released from custody after posting $2,500 bail on the single felony third-degree burglary charges filed against them.
Lindsey won the Dothan Eagle Super 12 Player of the Year award, and earned a scholarship to attend and play football at Troy University.

Elba Police Lt. Robert La Voie said an estimated $30,000 damage was caused during the burglary at the high school earlier this week, leading school officials to close the school on Tuesday.

For more details come back to dothaneagle.com and read the Saturday edition of the Dothan Eagle.

Hernandez makes transition to starting rotation

Joe Hernandez makes a pitch earlier this season (Kevin Glackmeyer/Troy University)
Today's baseball story on pitcher Joe Hernandez is in Friday's print edition of the Dothan Eagle. You can read it on dothaneagle.com HERE.

BY DREW CHAMPLIN | dchamplin@dothaneagle.com

Just like when he was in high school, Troy pitcher Joe Hernandez has stepped out of his comfort zone to help make his team better.

Hernandez, a 5-foot-11 junior right-hander, was signed by Troy to be a top option in the bullpen. Injuries and ineffectiveness forced him into the starting rotation, and he’s responded with two Sun Belt Pitcher of the Week awards in the last four weeks.

When he was a junior at Baker High School in Mobile, he had to move into the starting rotation, and he helped the Hornets reach the playoffs his last two years. After two years as a top reliever at Faulkner State, helping the Sun Chiefs reach the Junior College World Series as a freshman and a state runner-up spot last year, Hernandez came to Troy.

“I started (in high school), but I was really more comfortable with a relief role,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez, who threw a four-hit complete game in last Saturday’s 8-1 win at UL-Lafayette, has helped the Trojans turn it around after a slow start. He’ll pitch on Saturday in this weekend’s home series against UL-Monroe, which begins tonight at 6. Troy is fighting for a spot in the Sun Belt Tournament, but the Trojans have won three out of their last conference series.

Hernandez shook off a rocky first inning at ULL, where he gave up a run off a hit and two walks. He threw 110 pitches in the outing.

“He commanded his fastball at a very high rate,” Troy head coach Bobby Pierce said. “He rarely used his breaking ball or offspeed pitches. I think he threw maybe 10 of them. They were taking strike one and strike two because he was burying it on the corners.”

Hernandez (4-2, 4.84 ERA) also won the award for striking out eight and giving up no earned runs in a 6-2 win over Middle Tennessee on April 14. He’s the second Trojan to win the award twice in a season. Andrew Dickinson won it twice in 2010.

But to speak of the difficulty of the award, Tyler Ray went 12-0 last year for Troy and won Sun Belt Pitcher of the Year, but didn’t win the weekly award. Hernandez’ transformation from middle reliever to effective weekend starter hasn’t surprised coaches that much.

“It’s not like he was totally under the radar,” Pierce said. “For me, the best thing is his attitude every day. 

The guy does the right thing. When presented with whatever role, he’s all in and gives everything he’s got.”
Hernandez admitting struggling out of the bullpen early this season, but coaches gave him a start on March 27 at Jacksonville State. With three innings of one-hit shutout ball, Hernandez got the win.

“I’d say a little bit of jitters, moving from JUCO to the Division I level,” Hernandez said of early struggles. “I just needed to get more confidence. Once I got more confident, I started making better pitches.”

At his best, Hernandez is peppering the corners with fastballs in the high 80s, and he mixes in a slider. He considered himself more of an outfielder when he went to Faulkner State, but coaches recognized that his future was in pitching.

“I couldn’t hit for power,” Hernandez said. “Pitching is what helped me get noticed. Things weren’t going well at the plate, so the coaches just told me to focus on pitching and I never looked back. I haven’t picked up a bat since.”

On March 18, Hernandez had an ERA of 11.57, but had two scoreless relief outings before getting the start at JSU.

“He pitched well in the fall,” Pierce said. “We still felt things were in place for him to have success, even if he wasn’t having success at the time.”

Hernandez said the Trojans, sparked by winning three of its last four SBC series, seem to be peaking at the right time and can make some noise in these final two weeks of the regular season and in the Sun Belt Tournament. Pierce said the Trojans are playing with more determination, executing better and playing much better defense.

“Now that we’ve caught fire, it’s a different atmosphere at practice,” Hernandez said. “It’s all about how you play at the end of the year. The best teams get in, but it’s the hottest team that wins it.”

Trojans move on without Weathers, Clark

Here's the full story in Friday's Dothan Eagle on Troy basketball and how the Trojans shape up for next year, though a final roster spot will likely be filled at some point. You can read it on dothaneagle.com HERE.


BY DREW CHAMPLIN | dchamplin@dothaneagle.com
 
Troy men’s basketball coach Don Maestri confirmed Thursday that two players off last year’s team – leading scorer Will Weathers and reserve guard Daronte Clark – won’t be back with the team next year.

Weathers was Troy’s starting point guard for the last two years after transferring from Central Florida. He scored 12.2 points per game and led the Sun Belt in assists with 5.3 per game, but recently started exploring his professional options.

“He made some major contributions to our program, but he’s moving on and so are we,” Maestri said. “We wish him the best of luck, but he will not be back with the program.”

Clark came to Troy as a sophomore from Northwest Florida State College. He scored 4.7 points per game in 25 games. Maestri said he anticipated Clark transferring closer to his home in Gallatin, Tenn.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up in the Nashville area,” Maestri said. “He and his father are really close. He’s a fine kid, he always had a smile on his face and he did the right thing on and off the court, but everybody wants to play. That’s the name of the game.”

Troy has already signed four players, and with Clark and Weathers’ departure, still has a scholarship to give. Maestri said coaches are still searching for another guard, or possibly a transfer.

“The ideal thing would be to add another point guard,” Maestri said. “Antione Myers (signee) is a point guard all the way and an impact player. He’s fast and a great finisher, like (Chicago Bulls’) Derrick Rose. He’ll contribute immediately.”

Returning seniors Emil Jones and Alan Jones have been point guards before, though coaches want to leave Alan Jones at the shooting guard spot. Tevin Calhoun, a 6-foot-7 signee from Hill College in Texas, is another immediate impact player set to join Troy’s rotation.

The other two signees are Brevard (Fla.) Community College 6-foot-9 center Josh Warren and Pensacola State College guard Jeff Mullahey, a teammate of Myers.

“(Mullahey) is another kid who can stroke it,” Maestri said. “He’s another kind on a very unselfish team at Pensacola. He’s got very good basketball IQ.

“I feel pretty good about Josh. The deceptive thing about him is his statistics. When you watch him play, you’ll really like this kid. He plays like a dog gone guard who’s just trying to make the team. I have high hopes for him.”

Three scholarship players who redshirted last year – forwards Breon Dixon and Westley Hinton and guard Deonata Jethroe – are all scheduled to be back. Alan Jones (10.4 ppg) and Justin Wright, a forward (10.3 ppg) are the top returning scorers.

At 6-foot-3, Emil Jones led Troy in rebounding last year (5.9 rpg) and scored 9.6 ppg). The Trojans also return guard R.J. Scott (8.9 ppg) and forward Ray Chambers (4.9 ppg).

Thursday, May 10, 2012

HOOPS: Weathers, Clark won't be back


Troy men’s basketball coach Don Maestri confirmed Thursday that two players off last year’s team – leading scorer Will Weathers and reserve guard Daronte Clark – won’t be back with the team next year.

Weathers was Troy’s starting point guard for the last two years after transferring from Central Florida. He scored 12.2 points per game and led the Sun Belt in assists with 5.3 per game, but recently started exploring his professional options.

“He made some major contributions to our program, but he’s moving on and so are we,” Maestri said. “We wish him the best of luck, but he will not be back with the program.”

Clark came to Troy as a sophomore from Northwest Florida State College. He scored 4.7 points per game in 25 games. Maestri said he anticipated Clark transferring closer to his home in Gallatin, Tenn.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up in the Nashville area,” Maestri said. “He and his father are really close. He’s a fine kid, he always had a smile on his face and he did the right thing on and off the court, but everybody wants to play. That’s the name of the game.”

.... will add more to the story later

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Troy point guard posts he's leaving

Troy point guard Mo Weathers posted on his twitter feed (@mosesthedon_)Tuesday that he wouldn't be back at the school for his senior season.

Weathers' twitter post at 12:09 p.m. Tuesday said "To all the troy trojans family I really appreciate all ya support its been a wonderful three years but im skippn my senior season to go pro." You can read it HERE.

Troy head coach Don Maestri said Tuesday night that Trojan coaches have had talks with Weathers about options for his future, but Maestri said Weathers hasn't told them outright that he wouldn't be back.

Weathers couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday night as of 8 p.m. (If I'm able to reach him, I'll edit this) Students are taking exams now and semester grades are due sometime in the next few days.

The deadline to apply for the NBA Draft as an early entry has passed, but Weathers could pursue a career overseas.

Weathers led Troy (10-18 last season) in scoring at 12.2 points per game and led the Sun Belt with 5.3 assists per game. As a sophomore in 2010-11, Weathers earned all-conference honors. He transferred in from UCF and sat out the 2009-10 season.

Troy has signed one point guard, Pensacola State College's Antione "Fresh" Myers. Last year, Emil Jones served as the point when Weathers was on the bench. Troy had another point guard in Nic Combs, but he left the team last December.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Hernandez wins SBC award

For the second time this season, Troy pitcher Joe Hernandez has earned Sun Belt Pitcher of the Week honors. This comes off his complete game 4-hitter in the Trojans' 8-1 win over Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday.

...With Troy’s backs against the wall and a thin bullpen stretched after an 11-inning series opener, Hernandez tossed a complete-game four hitter against Louisiana-Lafayette. The junior right-hander ended the game with 8.2 scoreless innings against the Cajuns as he used 110 pitches to work his first career complete game.
 
Hernandez was able to get the Cajuns to hit into four double plays as the Trojans won the game 8-1...


***The Sun Belt also announced some football game times. Troy's Thursday, Oct. 11 home game against Western Kentucky will kick off at 6:30 p.m. and will be on ESPNU. A full list of the Sun Belt ESPN network games can be found HERE.

***In more expansion news, New Mexico State to the Sun Belt hasn't even been discussed, according to this report. It piggybacks off this blog (RUMORS!), but you can give it a click if you're interested.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Troy baseball recap

A back to back solid weekend for Troy, as the Trojans took a series from the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns. Troy rallied in the 9th to tie it Friday, but lost 9-8 in extra innings. Trojans got a 4-hit complete game from Joe Hernandez in Saturday's 8-1 win and Troy scored 3 in the ninth, taking the lead on a 2-run single from Tyler Vaughn, to win 10-8 on Sunday.

I don't know how other Sun Belt pitchers threw, but I'd guess Hernandez has a great chance to win his second SBC Pitcher of the Week award. Hernandez was brought in to be a middle/late innings relief pitcher, but has had some bright moments as a weekend starter after being thrown in the fire midway through the season.

Game 1 box HERE
Game 2 box HERE
Game 3 box HERE

Troy is off this week but hosts UL-Monroe next weekend. Here are the Sun Belt standings, and the top 8 of 10 go to the conference tournament in Bowling Green, Ky.

1. Florida Atlantic (16-6)
2. Arkansas State (15-7)
3. Florida International (13-12)
4. Middle Tennessee (12-12) - holds tiebreaker over USA
5. South Alabama (12-12)
6. UL-Monroe (11-13)
7. Western Kentucky (10-14)
8. UALR (10-14)
9. Troy (10-14)
10. UL-Lafayette (9-15)

Teams 7-9 are in a three-way tie, but WKU owns series wins over UALR and Troy, and UALR owns the series win over Troy.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Friday thoughts (edited with Benson statement)

It's a big day for several schools, as the realignment circus has recently hit in the smaller conferences. Today, FIU and North Texas will announce that they are leaving the Sun Belt after the 2012-13 school year to join Conference USA. CUSA also is taking Charlotte, Louisiana Tech and Texas-San Antonio today - not because they are established athletic programs, but because of the markets they are in.

That's what it has become these days. If it was Mercer wanting to join the Sun Belt and not Georgia State, would the Sun Belt take them? Probably not, unless people think higher of Macon, Ga., than I would guess. I dare say it's a good thing Troy and Arkansas State, to name a few, are already solidified in the Sun Belt because the Montgomery/Pike County/Dothan market isn't much to brag about and anyone who claims the Little Rock or Memphis market for ASU is fooling themselves - despite the recent success of both football programs and other nice, new buildings.

North Texas was the Sun Belt's big dog in football when the conference was in its infant stages and not very good. Since then, all the Mean Green have to brag about football-wise is a nice stadium, but they have been one of the best men's basketball programs. FIU, I'm not really sure about, but the school is in Miami and it counts.

The Mountain West is also adding Utah State and San Jose State. So, the two schools left out in the cold are New Mexico State and Idaho. Unfortunately, the schools know their place, as you can read how New Mexico State feels and how Idaho feels (this one's an even better read on the state of college football). But where do they go? Can't see the MWC taking them, and the option of being a football-only member of the Sun Belt could be there, but I got the feeling if the Sun Belt wants to add more teams that they'll listen much harder to the cases of the "4 to 6" FCS teams in the Sun Belt footprint that have spoken with commissioner Karl Benson. Teams you look at there would be Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, Sam Houston State, Lamar, perhaps Jacksonville State.

***Troy baseball is at UL-Lafayette, with the two last-place teams in the Sun Belt trying to create some separation and fight for a Sun Belt Tournament spot. But at 8-13, Troy and ULL are just one game behind three teams tied for sixth and only three back of the two teams tied for fourth place. Let's say Troy goes on a hot streak to close the year and finishes 7-2 or 6-3, and they might end up as a middle seed in the 8-team tournament. But the Trojans have to take a series from a team it hasn't had much success against since joining the Sun Belt.

Meanwhile, second baseman Tyler Vaughn received an academic honor on Friday morning.

11:55 a.m. EDIT - statement from Karl Benson on North Texas & FIU leaving for Conference USA
 

Two current Sun Belt Conference members, North Texas and Florida International, have publicly announced their intention to leave the Sun Belt Conference on July 1, 2013.
“Over the course of the last several weeks, both universities were cooperative and kept an open line of communication throughout the process,” said Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson.  “Both have been members in good standing during their time in the league and have contributed to the growth and success the Sun Belt has achieved in recent years.   We wish them good luck.”
“Despite the departures, the Sun Belt Conference has a strong footing with its current membership and has been active in recent weeks in bettering the league throughout this realignment process,” Benson said. “The Sun Belt previously announced the additions of Georgia State and Texas State and both of those universities will join the conference on July 1, 2013.  The remaining Sun Belt members believe strongly that these two universities are very good additions and will be competitive in all sports on a national level.”
On Monday, May 7 the Sun Belt Conference’s presidents and chancellors will meet to discuss the next course of action.  Additionally, the Sun Belt Conference’s annual Spring Meeting will take place May 20-23.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mullahey talks about signing with Troy

Yesterday I spoke with Pensacola JC point guard Antione "Fresh" Myers, who signed with Troy along with teammate Jeff Mullahey (pronounced Muh-LAY-hee). Today, I spoke with Mullahey on picking Troy.

"They started really recruiting me kind of late," Mullahey said. "I went up there and took a visit and liked everything about it. My best friend, Justin (Wright), plays there and that played a big reason for it."

Mullahey, 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, is a 2-guard and he'll compete for a spot on the wing.

"I shoot a lot of threes," Mullahey said. "They want to play a lot faster and run up and down and score. They're looking for me to be a consistent shooter. I'm more athletic than people perceive me. I really focus on playing good defense and that's been my niche in high school and at junior college. I'm a good team defender and I try to outsmart people. I feel like I'm unselfish as well. I just want to win."

Mullahey and Wright became best friends playing basketball at Pace (Fla.) High School. When the two were seniors, Pace set a school record with 25 wins and won its first-ever playoff game.

"We had probably four college players, and as seniors it started with us," Mullahey said. "Pace wasn't known for basketball. It was more of a baseball school, but one of the things I'm most proud of is what we accomplished as a high school tandem."

Now, Mullahey and Wright are hoping to turn around Troy's fortunes. The Trojans won the Sun Belt regular season in 2010, but have had two straight losing seasons.

"That's the plan," Mullahey said. "That's what we're shooting for. If everybody can buy in and we can get some good chemistry going, I think we can get it done."

Mullahey, who redshirted his first year at PJC, was in the pre-engineering program at PJC, but said he'd likely major in Mathematics at Troy. Mullahey was a first-team All-Panhandle Conference selection as a sophomore.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Troy adds two signees from PJC

Troy hoops got two more guard signees today from Pensacola Junior college - point guard Antione Myers and shooting guard Jeff Mullahey.

I'll profile Mullahey tomorrow but here's what Myers had to say about signing. For some background info on Myers, read THIS ARTICLE from the Baltimore Sun when he had originally committed to FIU.

"I really enjoyed being around the coaching staff and players," Myers said. "I felt comfortable with the coaches and they made me feel like I can talk to them about anything. I've got a teammate (Justin Wright) who is already at Troy and that wasn't the main reason I signed, but it played a part."

Myers said he is leaning towards majoring in computer science.

"It wasn't just about basketball when I went on my visit," Myers said. "It was about more than that. I enjoyed walking around the (new) arena. I really can't describe how I liked it. It was so much to see how it was built from the ground up."

Myers and Mullahey, who projects more as a shooting guard, were both first-team All-Panhandle Conference members. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Myers will push returning starter Mo Weathers at the point guard spot. He was an all-conference selection in both of his years at PJC.

"My plan is to lead the team and get us into a lot of transition," Myers said. "We'll be uptempo and run & gun. We'll get it and go. I'm a defender and I'll lock down. I'm not just going to bring one thing to the table. I'm going to bring everything to the table."

Here's what PJC coach Pete Pena told the Baltimore Sun about Myers in March: "He’s been our point guard for the past two years,” Pena said. “He has just been outstanding, distributing the ball and attacking the basket, playing about 36 minutes every night. He’s got a motor that just doesn’t stop. He plays with passion and heart. We’re going to miss him very much. He’s going to be a very, very tough young man to replace in a lot of different ways – on and off the court."

Texas State officially to join Sun Belt

Texas State has now joined the Sun Belt, effective July 1, 2013. The official announcement was made on the Sun Belt's site this morning.

From the announcement:


We are very excited about becoming a member of the Sun Belt Conference in 2013," said Texas State Director of Athletics Dr. Larry Teis.  "We know that our student-athletes will be eager to succeed in the Sun Belt, and we will enter the conference ready to compete.  We look forward to building new rivalries with some Sun Belt schools and renewing rivalries with others.  The Sun Belt Conference encompasses eight states from Texas to Florida that are rich in college athletic traditions, especially in the sport of FBS football."
 
Texas State's budget for athletics ranks in the upper half of the current Sun Belt Conference membership, and its undergraduate enrollment ranks near the top of the league's current membership.

Texas State is between Austin and San Antonio on I-35. The addition of Texas State gives the Sun Belt a footprint in Texas again after North Texas is expected (along with FIU) to depart for Conference USA.

Texas State, in San Marcos, is the Bobcats and are coached by Dennis Franchione, who was at Alabama for a couple of years.

You can go HERE to check out Texas State's football stadium & renovations.

From SaturdayBlitz.com, HERE is a good breakdown of the Sun Belt, with a map, etc.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Catching up with Jonathan Massaquoi

Jonathan Massaquoi gets to the ball carrier against FAU (Thomas Graning/Troy Messenger/Associated Press)

I was able to get up with former Troy defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi, who was drafted in the fifth round Saturday by the Atlanta Falcons. Here's what he had to say...

Massaquoi is from Lawrenceville, Ga., so it was a perfect fit for him to go to the hometown Falcons.

"I wasn't surprised I went to the Falcons," Massaquoi said. "I went to the facility and had a great workout there and knew I would be a potential candidate for their organization. Once the Draft came around, I heard good, positive things from the organization and I knew I could be that guy for that pick. I figured it would be either them or the (Houston) Texans. It's been definitely a dream come true."

Some mock drafts predicted Massaquoi would go a bit higher than the fifth round. While he was certainly excited to get drafted, Massaquoi did think he could have gone higher.

"I'm blessed to have been given this opportunity," Massaquoi said. "My personal opinion is that I knew I was supposed to go a little bit higher and others inside the NFL knew so as well, so I'm coming in with a bit of a chip on my shoulder to fuel that fire so I can continue to stay focused. The door is open for me and this is a situation I can embrace.

"The main thing is to get adjusted to the schedule and do whatever they ask me to do so I'll be able to fill a role on the team."

Massaquoi said he would remain at defensive end in the Falcons' scheme. He also laid out his hopes and goals for his immediate and long-term future.

"I have to set goals for myself and that's what I did when I came to Troy," he said. "My main goal is to be a team player and to gain the respect of my fellow players. My No. 2 goal is to win games, play my role, go to the playoffs and go to the Super Bowl. My personal goals are that I want a shot at Defensive Rookie of the Year and to reach the Pro Bowl. I definitely want to become a potential starter this year."

RELATED LINKS
AJC: ESPN draft guru Kiper gives Falcons a 'C'
Yahoo! Sports: Massaquoi among best fifth-round value picks
CBS Sports: Analyzing the Falcons' draft
CBS Sports: Analyzing the Falcons' fourth pick
AJC: How the NFC South teams fared (with intro comments on Massaquoi)