Baseball splits series on opening weekend

Wesley Kirchharr

Staff Writer

Trojan baseball kicked off the 2017 campaign last weekend by hosting Xavier, the defending Big East champs.

Troy (2-2, 0-0 Sun Belt) split the four-game series with a Musketeer team that advanced to the NCAA Baseball Tournament’s regional final game just last season.

Troy evened the series after falling short in Friday’s 6-2 loss in the season opener. The Trojans bounced back the following afternoon by taking game two in extra innings with a 2-1 victory.

Xavier scored eight runs in the nightcap of the doubleheader to take game three 8-2. The Trojans took Sunday’s finale 5-2 behind back-to-back home runs and leveled the series at two games each.

Game one was highlighted by a record opening day crowd and a host of Trojan pitchers chipping in. Seven different Trojan pitchers took the mound and accounted for 16 strikeouts, with junior Corey Childress being charged with the loss despite seven of those strikeouts.

Xavier jumped out in front early after a two-run homer put the Musketeers up 3-0 in the top of the first. Troy tallied two runs in the bottom of the first after Brandon Lockridge and Justin Friend drove in the only runs of the game for the home team. The one-run deficit held until Xavier drove one run in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, taking a commanding 6-2 lead.

Saturday’s doubleheader at Riddle-Pace Field started with a walk-off Trojan victory in 10 innings. Troy followed up on the previous game by striking out 15 batters behind starting pitcher Evan Herbert. Marc Skinner was awarded the win after leaving all three Xavier batters swinging in the top of the 10th.

Troy held a 1-0 lead until the Musketeers put their only run on the board with a double in the top of the sixth. With neither team able to gain an advantage through the first nine innings, the game headed to extra innings.

Steven Whitaker took over as a base runner after T.J. Binder’s single to lead off the bottom of the 10th. Whitaker quickly found himself in scoring position after stealing second and taking advantage of a Musketeer wild pitch. Redshirt freshman Drew Frederic saved the night when his single at the plate gave Whitaker the space he needed to make a run for the plate. Whitaker’s walk off score gave the Trojans the 2-1 win.

Following game two’s nail biter, the teams took the field for the nightcap of the doubleheader with one win each. Xavier took a 2-0 lead following a second inning homer and a double. The Musketeers tacked on one run in both the fifth and sixth innings with the Trojans still scoreless.

Xavier put the game on ice after a strong showing in the eighth inning, scoring four runs. Troy aimed to rally back with a triple from Drew Frederic, but Xavier’s Trent Astle retired the subsequent batters to keep the Trojans off the board.

Daren Osby was charged with the loss on the mound after his five innings contributed. Troy tallied only two runs in the ninth to prevent the shutout.

Sunday’s finale pinned the Trojans down 2-1 in the series, and only allowed Troy to play for a tie or a series loss.

“We would’ve liked to have gone 3-1 or 4-0, but all we could do today was get the series even,” Troy Head Coach Mark Smartt said. “They have a really good ball club that people will recognize at the end of the season. It was a good opening test for us and now we can get to work and figure out what we need to do to get better.”

The matchup was scoreless until Troy took the lead with back-to-back homers from Brody Binder and Chase Smartt in the third inning. Match Hancock drove in two runs on a double in the seventh to make the lead 5-1. Xavier plated one run in the eighth inning as a final effort, making the score 5-2 and evening the series at two games each.

Troy takes to the field once again when Samford comes to town on Wednesday, followed by a trip to New Orleans for a three-game series against the New Orleans Privateers.

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