Troy baseball off to hot start in 2016

Thomas Gleaton

Chief Copy Editor

For the first time since 2013, the Troy baseball team swept its season-opening weekend, beating Northern Kentucky in four games.

Head coach Mark Smartt began his tenure on the right foot, beating the Norse 10-3 on Friday, Feb. 19. The last time Troy (4-0, 0-0 Sun Belt) swept its opening opponent, Florida A&M, the Trojans won 40 games and appeared in the NCAA Regionals.

“I’m so proud that our team played well,” Smartt said. “To get the first win on the first night is really important for our players.

“For me, it’s good to get the first one out of the way. I’m really proud of how our team played. We played well in every phase of the game.”

Senior Grant Bennett took the win on Friday, giving up two hits and walking seven. Senior Robert Harris and junior Trey Johns relieved him. Though Harris gave up the lone hit between them, he struck out four.

Freshman Brandon Lockridge went 3-for-4 with a three-run homer in the fourth, which put the Trojans up 5-0.

Sophomores Reid Long and Matt Sanders added to that lead. Long hit an RBI double in the fifth and Sanders drove in two on a single in the sixth inning.

The next day, Northern Kentucky returned to Riddle-Pace for a doubleheader. It scored only one run in the entire day. The first game lasted only an hour and 44 minutes, the shortest recorded nine-inning game in the past ten seasons.

Senior Logan Brown gave up only four hits in the 5-0 win. It was the longest scoreless performance of his career.

Lockridge went 2-for-5 in this game with an RBI, junior Joey Denison went 1-for-3 with a run and junior Trevor Davis went 1-for-4 with an RBI and a run. Denison also scored on a single from Chase Smartt in the third, and it was Smartt’s first collegiate RBI.

The next game featured a similar outcome. Junior Evan Hebert gave up only four hits in the 6-1 Troy win.

Though Hebert gave up a run, he struck out three. Junior Marc Skinner, sophomore Corey Childress, and Johns each pitched an inning to relieve Hebert, and none of them gave up a single hit.

Sanders went 2-for-4 with a run, Denison went 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI, and Senior Tripp Calhoun hit 2-for-3 with a run. In the sixth, junior pinch-hitter Justin Friend belted a two-run double to give Troy its five-run lead.

On Sunday, Troy completed its sweep with a 4-2 victory over the Norse.

“I’m really excited about our team’s performance this weekend,” Smartt said. “Any time you can sweep a team, doesn’t matter when or where in the year it is, it’s always great to go 4-0. I don’t know if I could’ve asked for anything more, and I’m really proud of the way we played.”

Though freshman Cory Gill got the start, Johns got the win. Childress earned his save by striking out three in the last two innings.

The game was tied at two in the seventh inning. With two runners on, senior Bert Givens scored on a Sanders double.

In the next at-bat, junior Steven Whitaker scored on a fly out by Trevor Davis, giving the Trojans a two-run lead.

On Wednesday, Troy added to its streak, beating UAB 2-1 at home.

Freshman Zack Lightsey got the win with four innings, two hits and two strikeouts. He gave up only one run, a third-inning home run from the Blazers’ (1-3) Brewer Hicklen.

In the second inning, Whitaker hit a double, bringing in senior Windham Jackson, and the next batter, Lockridge, singled to bring Whitaker home.

Childress picked up his second save of the season, giving up only four hits, and Sanders got the only other base for the Trojans, going 1-for-3.

Troy will travel to Southeast Louisiana for its first road game on Friday, Feb. 26, and will take on the Lions at 6 p.m.

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