Troy punishes the Panthers

Wes Fortson

Staff Writer

The Trojan baseball team (9-11, 2-4 Sun Belt) returned to Riddle-Pace Field this past weekend to battle the Georgia Southern Panthers (12-9, 4-2 Sun Belt) and won the series 2-1.

The Panthers have been a successful team this year, as they have swept the Georgia Bulldogs and have taken a series away from the West Virginia Mountaineers.

The series win for the Trojans was a much-needed boost after a nine-game losing streak.

On Friday, March 13, the game was postponed to Saturday afternoon due to hazardous weather conditions.

In the opening game of the series on Saturday, March 14, there was little production from the Troy offense or from the bullpen, as the Trojans were trampled in a 15-1 loss.

In the first inning, the Trojans got on the scoreboard when senior first baseman Trevin Hall hit an infield single to score senior center fielder Clay Holcomb. Hall was later caught stealing to end the inning.

Unfortunately for Troy, that was the only run it scored in game one of the series.

In the next inning, the Panthers’ offense came alive.

Georgia Southern scored multiple runs in every inning after the first, except in the eighth when freshman pitcher Perez Knowles held the Panthers to first base.

The Panthers racked up 20 hits and 15 runs in game one of the series to the Trojans’ three hits and one run.

However, game two was a completely different story for Troy and junior pitcher Grant Bennett.

Bennett led the Trojans into the game as he struck out the side in just 15 pitches.

Troy’s offense followed suit by once again leading off the scoring in game two, with some help from freshman left fielder Reid Long and junior right fielder Logan Hill to bring the score to 2-0.

In the top of the second, Bennett retired the side in just 12 pitches and two strikeouts.

The junior pitcher carried the team on his shoulders as he pitched a perfect game through the seventh inning and finished  the game with 14 strikeouts and allowed only one run on four hits.

“It was going to take a very courageous effort by someone to get this thing turned around, and we got that from Grant,” said head coach Bobby Pierce. “Not only did he pitch well and carry a perfect game into the seventh, but well before any of that was played out, he took the mound with the right mindset of ‘I’m gonna get this done. Right here. Right now.’ ”

Bennett was also cushioned by a Trojan offense that was given some life by senior designated hitter Jo-El Bennett. Bennett hit a solo homer to left field in the fourth inning, his first of the season.

Bennett also scored Long in the fifth when he beat out a double play to first and reached on a fielder’s choice, bringing the score to 4-0.

Hill scored two more runners during the seventh inning with a single to center field.

The Panthers didn’t score their first and only run until the ninth inning of Grant Bennett’s complete game 6-1 victory.

On Sunday, March 15, both offenses on both sides struggled to bring any runners around to home in a 2-1 win for Troy.

The first four innings were scoreless until Hill singled through to left field, scoring freshman catcher Brody Binder in the bottom of the fifth.

One batter later, Hall reached on a fielder’s choice as the Panther’s freshman second baseman Jordan Howard over-threw the first baseman, which allowed Long to score the go-ahead run and bring the score to 2-0.

A couple of innings later, Georgia Southern was given some hope by senior right fielder Aaron Mizell when he hit a solo home run in the top of the seventh to bring the Panthers within one.

Fortunately for Troy, senior pitcher Jeremy McGowan came in for the save and fought his way out of trouble through the eighth and the ninth innings.

He found help from Holcomb, freshman shortstop Matt Sanders and redshirt junior catcher Tripp Calhoun in a game-saving play, as Calhoun tagged out junior pinch runner Cody Lanford at home plate for the final out.

The final score of game three was a close 2-1, and the win was credited to junior pitcher Lucas Brown in his first career start for Troy.

“He (Brown) was a candidate to start game three, and we chose to go that route because he’s had such a hot hand and we needed to continue the momentum off of Grant’s game, and Lucas did just that,”  Pierce said. “He pitched great, and at a time when we really needed to make a defensive play to save the game we did.”

Troy will be back in action at Riddle-Pace Field against the UALR Trojans in a conference series on Friday, March 20, at 6 p.m.

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