/Troy sweeps season opener series, falls at Auburn
(PHOTO/ Troy Athletics) The Troy baseball team got off to a 4-0 start to the 2018 season thanks to a series sweep of UT-Martin at home. During that series, senior infielder Matt Sanders was a force to be reckoned with at the plate. Sanders went 8-16 at bat, batting in six runs and hitting three home runs. His performance also landed him a spot as this year’s Sun Belt Player of the Week.

Troy sweeps season opener series, falls at Auburn

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Scott Watkins

Staff Writer

The Troy baseball team opened its 2018 season with a four-game sweep over Tennessee-Martin before falling 6-5 in a hard-fought road game to Auburn.

The Trojans got off to their second 4-0 start in three years after outscoring the Skyhawks 42-9 over the span of the weekend’s four games. However, they were unable to leave Auburn with an upset victory after the Tigers used a run in the eighth inning to hold off Troy.

Starting Friday, shortstop Matt Sanders played a key role during the Trojans’ opening series and garnered the Sun Belt’s first Player of the Week award of the season.

Sanders hit three home runs and six RBIs to go along with his .500 batting average for the weekend.

“Matt is off to a great start, and honestly I am not surprised,” said Troy Head Coach Mark Smartt. “He had an outstanding fall and preseason swinging the bat and carried that success into the first four games.”

The season officially began with Friday night’s 14-2 win over the Skyhawks.

Last year’s Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year Andrew Crane got the start on the mound for the Trojans and tossed five scoreless innings.

During his time on the mound, Troy plated nine runs in just two innings.

Troy scored five runs on four hits in a second inning which featured a two-run RBI single by first baseman Cole Prestegard.

In the fifth, the Trojans added four more runs thanks in large part to a three-run home run over the right-field wall by outfielder Rigsby Mosley.

Troy scored a run in the seventh before Sanders and outfielder Joey Denison each blasted two-run homers in the eighth inning to bring the Trojan’s run total to 14.

On Saturday, Troy began the day’s doubleheader with a 10-4 victory.

After scoring two runs in the first inning, Troy found itself behind for the first time of the season when Tennessee-Martin’s Casey Hartford hit a three-run home run in the second.

Troy was able to tie the game in the bottom of the second and then blow the game open with a four-run fifth inning.

Both Prestegard and Sanders notched two-run RBI home runs in the inning.

Troy plated two more runs in the sixth before tacking on an insurance run in the eighth inning.

C.J. Carter started the game for the Trojans and got the win. He allowed three earned runs in five innings of work.

In game two of the doubleheader, Troy found itself behind for much of the game after the Skyhawks scored two runs in the third inning.

Troy’s offense was held scoreless for much of the game before exploding for six runs in the seventh inning.

Three hits, two walks and two Skyhawk errors helped Troy send 10 different batters to the plate and put the game out of reach.

Relief pitcher Lance Johnson got the win after tossing two scoreless innings.

The final game of the weekend ended with a 12-1 Sunday win for the Trojans.

Starting pitcher Hixton Rush got the win after throwing five strikeouts in five innings.

UT-Martin scored in the top of the first inning but was held without a run for the remainder of the game.

Troy had 13 hits from eight different players and scored in six different innings. Sanders led the team with three hits, including a solo home run.

“Really proud of the work, 4-0,” Smartt said.  “Couldn’t ask for anything more this weekend.

“It’s a testament to our players. We have good players up and down our lineup.”

On Wednesday afternoon, the Trojans battled with Auburn in a road game that was close from start to finish.

Once again, it was Sanders who kept Troy in the game, batting 1-4 at the plate and scoring two runs. One of those runs came in the top of the sixth inning to tie the score at five.

Despite hanging with a Tigers team that has been on the fringes of the USA Today Coaches Poll Top 25, Troy conceded the win after Auburn scored the game-winning run on a sacrifice flyout to right field in the eighth inning.

Troy will play a three-game series this weekend in Tallahassee against the Florida State Seminoles before playing a standalone midweek contest at home against UAB next Wednesday.