Crook shines; Troy baseball defeats No. 15 Louisiana

Wesley Kirchharr

Staff Writer

The Troy baseball team hosted the No. 15-ranked Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns in a three-game series over the weekend, with Troy (13-10, 3-3 Sun Belt) dropping the series opener before bouncing back in game two to even the series.

The nationally-ranked Ragin’ Cajuns escaped with Sunday’s rubber game to avoid the series upset.

Saturday saw not only a victory for the Trojans over a top-25 opponent, but also a 14-strikeout performance from senior pitcher Austin Crook. Crook’s 8.2 inning-outing was good enough to earn him Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Week recognition, according to the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.

Friday’s game one saw the Sun Belt rivals knotted at five runs each in the top of the ninth inning. A two-out double came off the bat of Handsome Monica to break the tie and allowed Louisiana to escape game one with a 6-5 victory.

After a slow start, the Ragin’ Cajuns drove in four runs in the top of the third to take the 4-0 advantage. Troy answered immediately in the bottom of the inning, scoring four of their own behind Joey Denison’s two-RBI single. Denison led the Trojans at the plate with his 2-for-3 performance.

An RBI from Trevor Davis put the Trojans on top in the following inning, a lead that would remain until the game’s end.

Louisiana scattered two runs between the final two innings. Troy’s closing pitcher Mark Skinner was charged with the loss after allowing a single run in his 1.1 innings on the hill.

Following the score in the top of the ninth, the Trojan’s attempt to battle back was put to rest after three quick outs in the bottom of the inning, leaving the final score 6-5.

After putting rest to a Louisiana rally in the ninth inning, the Trojans picked up the victory in game two behind a career outing by Crook.

Crook struck out a career-high 14 batters in an equally historic 8.2 innings on the mound.

Troy allowed a pair of quick runs in the first inning, but would not allow any more until Louisiana’s last attempt in the ninth inning.

Troy had an excellent outing at the plate as all but two Trojans collected a base hit. Brandon Lockridge led his team with his five at-bats. Two of Lockridge’s three hits drove in a runner for Troy.

After scattering runs in the second, third and eighth innings, Troy held off the rally and came out on top 7-5, forcing the Cajun squad to return for a series tiebreaker the following afternoon.

Sunday’s rubber game was not as kind to the Trojan squad with Troy having trouble generating the offensive results they have been used to.

Four Trojans earned the team’s total hits for the day, as base hits were few and far between.

Matt Sanders and Lockridge led the Trojan offense as they had the only RBI’s on the day. A triple came off the bat of Sanders in the third, with Lockridge’s contribution coming in the eighth.

After consistent scoring from Louisiana, the final score stood 7-2 as the Ragin’ Cajuns escaped with the series victory.

“I really like our team; they have a chance to be really good, but they have to take the extra step to get to that point,” Troy Head Coach Mark Smartt said. “We kept playing, but we have to start better. Our guys competed their tails off and every player gave his best.”

The Trojans take the field again when they travel to Arlington, Texas, to take on the Mavericks of UT Arlington in a conference matchup. The three game stretch begins on Friday at 6:30 p.m. and games two and three will be played on Saturday and Sunday.

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