By: Caleb Odom
The road to a Trojan championship begins with the first pitch.
Getting to Omaha, Neb. to play in the College World Series is every college baseball player’s dream while they are in school.
So having a solid pitching staff that helps win games is one of the major factors that could help the Trojans punch their ticket towards Omaha.
“We’ve got a lot of depth,” Troy pitching coach Brad Phillips said. “Knock on wood right now, we are probably as healthy as we have been in a long, long time so that is a good thing, and that gives a little more depth and some options.”
The four starting pitching jobs consist of Friday, Saturday, Sunday and a midweek starters.
Phillips said there are currently six pitchers in the mix for a starting pitching role for the Trojans.
Junior right-handers Will Starling and Tanner Hicks look to earn starting spots as both are new to the team.
Then there are the two returning starters, Joe Hernandez and Ryan Brady, who have already proved they can compete at a high level when they took the mound for Troy last season.
Hernandez was a two-time Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Week with 45 strikeouts and 18 walks last season while the hard throwing righty posted a 4.39 ERA in 16 appearances that included a nine saves and a complete game four-hitter against Louisiana-Lafayette.
Brady finished the 2012 season with a 4.19 ERA and a 2-3 record while notching 39 strikeouts and 21 walks for the Trojans.
The other two pitchers in the hunt for jobs as starters are, the lefties returning from Tommy John Surgery, Ryan Sorce and Shane McCain.
“They are all capable guys, and we will see how it all unfolds over the next few weeks,” Phillips said.
When a casual Troy baseball fan thinks of the Trojan bullpen two names should instantly come to mind; Nate Hill and Thomas Austin.
Hill and Austin held the late innings together last season with their combined 67 total appearances, which was 143.1 innings pitched.
“Nate is probably one of the better left on left guys in the country,” Phillips said.
The left-hander, Hill, finished 2012 with a 3.53 ERA while having 75 strikeouts and 33 walks.
The righty, Austin, had 52 punch outs with 14 free passes while finishing last year with a 2.80 ERA.
Another pitcher to keep an eye on is the Northwest Florida State College transfer Matthew “Muggsy” Howard, a junior right-hander.
“He has been a Panhandle All Conference closer and hopefully he can give us some late inning help,” Phillips said.
As the intersquad games close approach, Coach Phillips looks at keeping his hurlers healthy as they head into the season opener against Florida A&M on Friday, Feb 15 at 6 p.m.
“We don’t want them pitching their best right now,” Phillips said. “Because if that’s the case then we have got a long way to go. We want them to continue to get better and better each week.”
The question of who could be the Trojan closer in the 9th inning is still up in the air according to Phillips.
“I think that when it is all said and done, we might have a committee,” Phillips said.
When the games matter so much and every pitch counts, good pitching is a must and the Trojans hope their stable of arms come through all the way to Omaha.