Sanders, Troy clinch series over Louisiana, crush ASU

Wesley Kirchharr

Staff Writer

The Troy baseball team clinched a three-game road series over conference rival Louisiana before drilling Alabama State at home 14-1.

The Trojans won the first two games of their series with the Ragin’ Cajuns 6-2 and 8-5 before losing the series finale 4-3.

The Trojans (17-8, 3-3 Sun Belt) have now won 11 of their last 14 games heading into a stretch where six of the next seven games have Sun Belt implications. The lone loss of the week bumped the Trojans down in the conference standings as South Alabama’s 3-2 conference record eclipsed Troy for the third slot in the East Division.

Troy opened the series against the Ragin’ Cajuns on Friday, handling a squad that sits near the bottom of the Sun Belt’s West Division. Behind the arm of Andrew Crane, the Ragin’ Cajuns posted only five hits as Troy coasted to the 6-2 victory.

Crane pitched the entirety of the game, becoming the first Trojan to pitch nine full innings since 2016. Louisiana posted a pair of runs in the second and fourth innings, but Crane and the Trojan defense downed the following 13 batters after Crane gave up a solo home run in the fourth.

“Crane was terrific,” said Head Coach Mark Smartt. “He threw maybe three bad pitches all night; he only allowed one base runner after the fourth inning.”

Offensively, Troy scattered pairs of runs across three innings behind near career nights from Cole Prestegard and Matt Sanders. Prestegard tallied multiple RBIs for the fifth time this year as he drove in three runs on a 2-4 night at the plate.

Sanders met his career high performance at the plate as the senior batted a perfect 4-4. Sanders also scored three runs.

In Saturday’s game two, Troy clinched the series with an 8-5 victory, its first series win over the Ragin’ Cajuns since the 2012 season. The Trojans jumped out to a 7-0 lead after scoring a pair of runs in the second inning and posting five in the third. Sanders and Brody Binder followed closely behind Smartt’s performance with five hits between them. Sanders posted a 3-5 night as well, while Binder turned in two hits and drove in a run.

Louisiana began to spark a comeback midway through the game, scoring five runs within the fifth and seventh innings.

In Sunday’s game three, Troy was denied what would have been its first-ever sweep of the Ragin’ Cajuns after Louisiana’s Zach LaFleur hit a walk-off single to hand Troy the 4-3 loss.

With two outs and a runner in scoring position, LaFleur sent CJ Carter’s pitch down the right side of the field, sending Louisiana’s runner on second back home. Carter was charged with the loss after giving up the run in his 0.2 innings on the mound.

“What a weekend for Matt Sanders, Smartt said. “He’s not flashy; he just comes in day-to-day and does his job.”

Sanders led Troy in the batter’s box once again, going 3-4 with an RBI to improve to 10-13 in the series.

Drew Frederic followed closely behind Sanders, as his 2-4 performance with one RBI gave Troy the tying run in the top of the eighth inning.

Troy’s scattered runs in the first, fifth and eighth innings, but it was not enough after Louisiana scored two in the second and one in the fifth before walking off in the ninth.

Following the Louisiana series, Troy returned home to kick off a four-game home stretch, downing Alabama State 14-1 on Tuesday night.

The Trojans tallied 19 hits in a game where they did not score in but two innings. Troy got to work early, posting two runs in the opening frame behind a pair of RBI’s from Frederic and Rigsby Mosley. Frederic let the Trojans at the plate, connecting on three of his five trips to bat. Frederic chipped in two RBIs in his efforts, one shy of Prestegard’s three. Troy would tack on another three runs before Alabama State got on the board in the third inning after a sacrifice fly.

Sadler got the win with four innings of work on the mound, allowing only three hits while striking out two.

The Hornets had no answer for Troy’s performance at the plate, allowing Troy to hit the 14-run mark for the third time this season. Following Troy’s scoreless third inning, the Trojans sandwiched two single-run innings between a two-run and a five-run inning to slam the door on an in-state rival. After the Hornets failed to score in the top of the ninth inning, the final score stood 14-1 in Troy’s favor.

Troy returns to action Thursday, hosting a three-game series against Sun Belt foe Georgia State. First pitch for tonight and tomorrow’s games are set for 6 p.m., while Saturday’s finale is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. All three games will be broadcast on ESPN 3.

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