By: Karli Mauldin
Photo By: April Irvin
The Troy Trojans baseball team will be hitting off their season at home for the UCF Tournament this Friday at 6 p.m. against Florida A&M and lasting through the weekend.
With the team’s depth being stronger this year Head Coach Bobby Pierce is looking forward to seeing what the players can do.
“We return a good nucleus from last year’s team, and our first year players from our recruiting classes have filled in nicely,” Pierce said. “It’s been a hard-working, dedicated group since day one in the fall and opening day should be promising. We’re very optimistic about the upcoming season.”
While the team has retained 20 players, they gained 15 new players with 18 that will be pitching throughout the season.
Pierce and other coaches plan to rotate the players often in this tournament to help the team become proficient in most positions and to look for a strong starting lineup when it comes time for the conference games.
“Early on in the season we’re trying to get a good look at a number of guys not just one particular lineup which is very common,” Pierce said. “As you continue to tweak and put together your best combinations, our first four weeks of the season are nonconference games and although all games are important, you try to utilize that nonconference schedule to set things up for when the conference games roll around.”
As for the catchers, Jake Harrell from Rehobeth High School stepped in last year as a true freshman due to the thumb injury of Brandon Brown, previous catcher from Dublin High School, and his thumb has not fully recovered from his surgery, so Harrell is set up to be behind the plate for most of the season.
Brown will be moved to different positions that he has played in the past throughout this upcoming tournament in hopes of finding a new role in which he can help the team without further damaging his thumb. This could also include catching as well, but the coaching staff, along with Brown, plans to take this adjustment day by day.
Justin Hancock from Enterprise High School will also help behind the plate.
“With this combination, our catching depth will work out very well,” Pierce said.
A potential concern the coaching staff has for the team is the lack of experience in some of the starting pitchers, but the staff has confidence in them developing as quality starters.
“Most pitchers are junior college transfers, which gives them college experience, but not at our division level,” Pierce said.
The coaching staff’s goals for the team include but are not limited to making the necessary adjustments in developing and improving the team through attempting to win enough games to qualify for the NCAA regional play and possibly winning two post-season tournaments which would advance the Trojans to the college world series in Omaha, Neb.
There will be 33 home games total this season and the staff along with the players would like to encourage their fellow Trojans and the community to come out and watch them play.
“We’re always very fortunate here to have tremendous support,” assistant coach Mark Smartt said. “After each home game win, we have a few players who will be going out to the front gate to sign merchandise and tell the fans thank you for attending. They get to meet the fans and we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback, so we hope that the same support if not more will continue.”