Troy takes first game in NCAA RegionalsPublished 1:51pm Friday, May 31, 2013
What a difference four weeks can make.
On May 8, Alabama pounded Troy 11-2 in Tuscaloosa in a midweek tilt. On Friday, the Trojans returned the favor, knocking off the Crimson Tide 5-2 in the opening game of the NCAA Regionals in Tallahassee, Fla.
Troy head coach Bobby Pierce said that the opening game win is huge for Troy, because it keeps them in the winner’s bracket early on.
“I think that staying in the winner’s bracket is a huge part for us to possibly win this regional,” Pierce said. “I don’t know if our pitching is deep enough to get in to four or five games with success at this level. I would prefer to just stay in the winner’s bracket. I think all coaches want that.”
Troy (41-18) used a five-run fourth inning to come from behind and knock off their in-state rival.
Alabama (34-27) scored on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the third, but the lead would be short lived.
Logan Pierce doubled off the wall in right center to lead off the inning, and two batters later, Trae Santos sent a deep fly ball to left field for his seventeenth home run of the season and first opposite-field dinger.
Santos’ homer was his first true opposite-field homer of the season, something that he has been trying to work on.
“The Alabama pitcher was pounding me away,” said Santos. “I know I can go that way, but I’m just pretty stubborn and try to yank everything. I have been missing balls, especially at the conference tournament, so I am glad I could help the team out and put a good swing on the ball.”
Santos’ power display to left field drew praise from Crimson Tide skipper Mitch Gaspard.
“What makes Trae dangerous is that he has power to all fields, as he showed today,” said Gaspard. “That ball was to the opposite field and was a no doubter. There aren’t too many kids in the college game that can do that.”
Later in the inning, Ali Knowles singled up the middle scoring Justin Hancock and Josh McDorman.
SEE MORE GAME PHOTOS HERE
In addition to Knowles’ offense, the junior centerfielder covered a lot of ground in the outfield. Multiple times in the game Knowles snagged hits to the alley in right center, including one that robbed Alabama catcher Brett Booth of a double in the fifth inning.
“My job is defense first and hit second,” Knowles said. “Coach told me to try to get a ground ball and get the run in. We practice situations like that, runners on second and third, and try to get a ground ball.”
Alabama first baseman Austen Smith hit a solo home run in the seventh inning for the Crimson Tide.
On the mound, Sun Belt Pitcher of the Year Shane McCain (8-2) picked up the win. McCain went six-and-two-thirds innings, scattering seven hits, striking out six batters and walking just one.
McCain said that his job is made easy with players like Knowles.
“When you have guys that can cover ground like Ali, I just try to throw strikes and get after them,” McCain said. “Especially when we got that four-run lead, it is just about throwing strikes, trying to keep the ball down and locating. You know, things pitchers should do.”
The Trojans will face Florida State, today at 4 p.m.
To see a photo gallery from the game, visit troymessenger.com. Follow @troymessenger for game updates.