Trojans exorcise the Demons

Wes Fortson

Staff Writer

The Trojan baseball team opened up its season on Friday, Feb. 13, against the Northwestern State Demons of Natchitoches, Louisiana, and won three games out of the four-game series.

The season also kicked off head coach Bobby Pierce’s final season of his 33-year career and his 13th year with Troy.

On Friday night, the Trojans came out on fire with a 6-0 victory behind freshman pitcher Corey Childress.

Childress allowed only two hits in his seven innings and showed the composure of an experienced pitcher.

“For him to put that out there in his first college start has exceeded expectations,” Pierce said.

The young freshman pitcher was also cushioned by a productive 10-hit Trojan offense that scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth to help take the win.

Troy’s scoring rally in the fifth was sparked by freshman shortstop Matt Sanders, who hit an RBI single to right field to score the redshirt junior catcher Tripp Calhoun.

Senior designated hitter David Hall followed Sanders with a two-RBI single after senior second baseman Nick Masonia walked.

The crowd of nearly 1,200 at Riddle-Pace Field got involved after a productive fifth inning by Troy to help take down the Demons on opening night.

On Saturday, Feb. 14, the Trojans and the Demons faced off in a doubleheader, but Troy ran into a little trouble as Northwestern State took a quick 6-1 lead in the fourth inning of the first game.

However, the Trojans and Sanders had another idea. In the bottom of the sixth, Troy cut the deficit to just four.

Masonia started Troy’s offense with a double to right field, followed by senior outfielder Clay Holcomb, who used his speed on the bases to stretch out a triple and score Masonia. Sanders immediately followed with an RBI single to score Holcomb.

In the eighth inning, Troy was still struggling to produce on offense to erase its run shortage.

Fortunately, Sanders came to the rescue again for the Trojans with a three-run blast to left field that cut the Demons’ lead to only one run.

The freshman shortstop wasn’t done demolishing the Demons’ hopes of taking down Troy.

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth and one runner on third, Sanders had the crowd in the stands on its feet with a walk off single to left field to score Holcomb. The game-winning run made the final score 8-7.

In the second game, Troy breezed by with a 5-0 win behind junior pitcher Grant Bennett.

Bennett allowed only four hits throughout his six-inning outing and accumulated eight strikeouts against Northwestern State.

Although Troy started off a little slow, junior right fielder Logan Hill started the game off hot with an RBI single in the first to score Masonia and put the Trojans on top early.

After putting together a couple more runs, freshman left fielder Reid Long followed up his triple back in the second inning with a solo home run in the seventh to extend Troy’s lead to 4-0.

Troy picked up the 5-0 win as Long showed off his offensive talent in his first career start at the collegiate level.

On Sunday, Feb. 15, the Trojans struggled to keep up with the Demons’ offense in a 9-5 loss.

Sophomore pitcher Tucker Simpson was handed the ball and the start on Sunday, but couldn’t get anything to work against a talented Northwestern State offense.

In only one and one-third innings of work, Simpson allowed five runs on three hits.

Some sloppy defensive play by the Trojans also gave up a few more runs.

“All in all, it was a great weekend, but we played probably as poorly defensively as we have in quite some time, though,” Pierce said.

Troy gave up nine runs thanks to four errors on Sunday, and just couldn’t find enough runs of its own to make up for its mishaps.

However, there were plenty of positive notes for Troy on the weekend.

“Getting a lot of guys involved is definitely good in weekend one and on top of having some success as well while doing it,” said pitching coach Brad Phillips.

Sanders had an impressive weekend as the freshman reached base in 11 out of 19 at-bats, including a home run, a triple, 10 hits and seven RBIs.

The young talent on the team proved to be a huge factor in the Trojans’ success this weekend and will have to continue to be for them to be successful on the diamond this year.

The Trojans finished the weekend strong and will be back in action on Friday, Feb. 20, on the road against Saint Louis.

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