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Smartt following father’s lead, enters coaching profession

During last week’s press conference to name Mark Smartt as the next head baseball coach at Troy, one his fellow coaches had tears rolling down her face and an ear-to-ear grin.

But this coach holds an extra special place in Mark’s heart. It is his daughter, Taylor.

Taylor Smartt will enter the coaching profession this fall with the Troy softball team, following a stellar four-year career with the Trojans.

With the fundamentals of baseball and softball being closely tied, Taylor said she would use lessons from dad in her coaching.

“I have learned so many things from my dad over the years,” Taylor said. “He always wanted us to make sure that we were doing the right thing, even if no one was there to see it. I want to instill that same kind of attitude in my players.”

Smartt finished here career by appearing in every game during her junior and senior seasons. During her career, she drove in 40 RBIs and hit three home runs.

For her entire life, Taylor has known her dad as “the coach.” Now, she will know him as her colleague.

“We had a staff meeting the other day, and he kind of looked at me and said ‘What are you doing here?’” Taylor said. “It will be new relationship. When I call him not, it won’t be as a player. I will be able to ask him a question as a coach, and I know he will give me his honest opinion.”

Smartt has loved the game of softball since she was a small child. She played her way through the recreation leagues, and starred for the Charles Henderson Lady Trojans in high school.

Now, Smartt gets to continue her love for the game as a coach and gets to share her experiences to help other players develop.

“I love the game and I don’t want to get out of it,” Taylor said. “I really find happiness in seeing others succeed. Seeing kids get excited when they do things they never thought they could do is amazing. I can’t wait to help these girls do big things.”


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On the road again

On the road again

Beth Mullins comes to Troy after three successful seasons as an assistant coach at Mississippi State. Mullins, known as an excellent recruiter, feels that if she can get prospects to Troy, she will have no trouble getting them sign . (Photo/Mississippi State athletics)
Beth Mullins ,right, comes to Troy after three successful seasons as an assistant coach at Mississippi State. Mullins, known as an excellent recruiter, feels that if she can get prospects to Troy, she will have no trouble getting them sign . (Photo/Mississippi State athletics)

New Troy softball coach hard at work on recruiting trail

New Troy softball coach Beth Mullins has yet to find time to search for a place to live in her new hometown. Why hasn’t she taken a day to find a house? Because she is more focused on finding talent.

Less than 48 hours after accepting the offer, Mullins had Troy in her rear view mirror and was barreling up Interstate 85 to Atlanta on the recruiting trail. Mullins knows softball in the Deep South well, having grown up in Fairhope, Alabama, playing at UAB and coaching at Georgia Southern, UAB, Western Kentucky and most recently Mississippi State.

At every stop on her personal coaching carousel, Mullins has been a dynamic recruiter. She has every intention on bringing excitement back to Troy softball.

“I am beyond excited to be at Troy,” Mullins said. “From the minute I stepped on campus for my interview, I knew this is where I wanted to be. John (Hartwell, Troy athletic director) has a great vision for the future of all sports, and I am happy to be part of it.”

Trips to Birmingham and Colorado are on her itinerary in the coming weeks, with one single goal in mind: get players to Troy.

Mullins fully believes that if she can get players on campus, she can get them to fall in love with the facilities, the university and the town, much like she did earlier this year.

“Troy is a very special place,” Mullins said. “The university and town are full of amazing people, and I know that if these recruits get to interact with this amazing place, they will want to be a part of this program for four years.”

Troy finished as the Sun Belt Conference Tournament Runner-up in 2010, but has not posted a winning record in conference play since 2009. In the last five seasons, Troy has limped to 133-142-2 overall record and a dismal 43-66 mark in Sun Belt play.

Despite the lack luster record in recent seasons, Mullins said she can “easily sell Troy” to potential recruits. The Troy Softball Complex recently underwent a major renovation, including field and dugout improvements and the addition of the Dodds Center.

The Dodds Center, an 8,000 square foot facility located adjacent to the field, houses a player locker room, player lounge, athletic training room and hitting and pitching areas.

“The school in itself sells itself,” Mullins said. “This great university has a lot of diverse majors, and is fully committed to athletics and softball. The softball facilities are some of the best in the nation without a doubt. If I had children, Troy is the place I would to send them to college.”

Mullins becomes just the second Troy softball coach ever.

Former head coach Melanie Davis resigned in May. Davis compiled a 780-509-4 record over her 21 seasons at Troy and led the Trojans to a pair of conference titles and one NCAA Regional berth.

The day after being hired, Mullins met with six returning Troy players and laid the foundation on which the new era of Troy softball will be built.

“The girls I met with fired me up even more,” Mullins. “They are a hard working group that I am excited to work with. We are going to work together to get Troy back to where we want to be: competing for conference titles.”

Mullins won’t stop to rest, or go house hunting, until she has Troy winning again. If her master plan comes together, she will be doing both very soon.


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Davis resigns after 21 seasons as Troy softball coach

For the first time in over 21 years, Troy University is beginning a search for a new head softball coach.

Melanie Davis, the only head coach in Troy history, resigned Monday morning. Her resignation is effective immediately.

Davis was 780-509-4 in her 21 seasons at the helm. She led the Trojans to two conference titles, the Mid-Continent Conference in 1996 and the Atlantic Sun in 2005. The Trojans also advanced to the NCAA West Regional in 1996.

“I am also grateful for the countless loyal and dedicated staff and student-athletes who battled in the trenches to build the program that has been dear to my heart for the past 21 years,” Davis said in a released statement Monday. “Our time together has resulted in friendships that will continue to span the years and forge additional opportunities for good times and special memories.”

Troy limped to a 43-62-2 record in the last two seasons combined, and has not posted a winning record in conference play since 2009.

John Hartwell, Troy Director of Athletics, thanked Davis for her services to the university over the last two decades.

“On behalf of Troy University, I would like to thank Melanie Davis for her two decades of service and dedication to the University and the countless student-athletes she mentored,” Hartwell said. “We wish Melanie nothing but the best in her future endeavors.”

The search for a new Troy coach will begin immediately.


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Trojans for life

Trojans for life

Troy  softball players Becca Hartley, left, and Taylor Smartt, right, starred at Charles Henderson in their high school days. The duo holds down the left side of the Troy infield, Smartt at third base and Hartley at shortstop. (Photo/Ryan McCollough)
Troy softball players Becca Hartley, left, and Taylor Smartt, right, starred at Charles Henderson in their high school days. The duo holds down the left side of the Troy infield, Smartt at third base and Hartley at shortstop. (Photo/Ryan McCollough)

Smartt, Hartley right at home playing in front of familiar faces

Taylor Smartt and Becca Hartley don’t need to remind each other of the situation after every pitch, it just happens out of habit.

Smartt and Hartley currently hold down the left side of the Troy softball infield, at third base and shortstop respectively. About four years ago, the duo was in the same situation, albeit in different colors.

Smartt, as she is now, was the senior veteran. Hartley, the wide-eyed, ready-to-learn freshman. The duo was part of the Charles Henderson Lady Trojans in 2010. But even then, the duo bounced ideas and feedback on one another.

“We have always had a good relationship with one another,” said Smartt. “She knows me so well, and always seems to know say to me in certain situations. She knows how to handle things, and knows how to handle me when I get upset. She is definitely the more calm one.”

Hartley, who has started 31 of the 32 games played during her freshman campaign, said she is happy to have her friend with her during the transition from high school to college.

“It was definitely different from high school, because we play and practice more,” said Hartley. “I struggled with it at first, but it has been easier than I expected overall thank to my Taylor and the rest of teammates. Softball is our lifestyle, and we all love it.”

Troy has stumbled somewhat through the first month of the season, posting a 14-19-2 record. Hartley has held down the shortstop spot all season, but Smartt, like she did in high school, has seen numerous positions.

In her time in orange and blue, Smartt played four different positions. Since arriving at Troy, Smartt has seen time at seven of the nine positions. The only two spots she hasn’t played are pitcher and centerfield.

While some might see the task of playing multiple positions as a burden, Smartt likes the challenge.

“I really honestly don’t care where I am, I just want to be on the field and helping my team in whatever way I can,” said Smartt. “I have to credit to my dad (Troy baseball coach Mark Smartt) for making me work at every position and ‘cover all the bases.’ He taught me to not care about me, but to help the team.”

Both players remember their high school days fondly. Smartt played for Steve Haugh and Chad Lapp, while Hartley played the majority of her career for former Lady Trojan coach Robin Snyder.

“There were lots of great players, like Allie Park, Heather Snell and Claire Goodson, that I looked up to,” said Smartt. “The program is definitely on the rise, and I am so happy I was able to be a small part of it. Those days at Charles Henderson were fun.”

Hartley finished her career with CHHS last season, with a remarkable run to the state tournament. The state tourney appearance was the first for the Lady Trojans in several seasons.

“We may not have been the most talented players out there, but they taught us to work hard everyday,” said Hartley. “I’m a firm believer that anyone who works hard gets rewarded. That is what we did there, and what we continue to do here.”

The Troy Softball Complex and Charles Henderson High School are only a stones throw apart.

While a lot of college-bound students wish to move away for college, Hartley and Smartt consider their decision to remain at home and play the game the love as one of the best choices of their lives.

“I have wanted to play softball at the college level for a long time, and I can’t thank Troy enough for allowing me to do it,” said Hartley. “This team is one of the best teams I have been a part of because everyone really cares for each other. Coming to play at Troy is something I will never regret.”

Smartt echoed Hartley’s sentiments.

“Playing softball for Troy has been an experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything,” said Smartt. “I have loved to be able to live our my dream and play Division I softball and compete against some of the best players in the world. I love being a part of this team and will always remember my time here.”

Troy plays host to Georgia State this weekend at the Troy Softball Complex on Elm Street.

The Trojans and Panthers will play a doubleheader on Saturday beginning at 1:30 p.m.

Sunday’s game is set for noon first pitch.

 


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Wednesday Romp

Wednesday Romp

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South Alabama uses big fifth inning home run to rout Troy, 9-1 in conference game

For four full innings the Troy Trojans went toe-to-toe with the No. 12/13 ranked South Alabama Jaguars. But a fifth inning three-run home run by South’s Amanda Minihan pushed the Jags to a 6-1 win over Troy Wednesday night at the Troy Softball Complex.
Troy (14-19-2) trailed 1-0 before a disastrous two-pitch sequence in the fifth inning. Reliever Rachel Rigney’s first pitch was deemed illegal by third base umpire Timothy Porter, and a second Jaguar run came home. Rigney’s next offering was belted over the left field wall by Minihan.
“Jaycee (Affeldt, Troy pitcher) made some uncharacteristic walks and the capitalized on them in a big way,” said Troy head coach Melanie Davis.  “That’s what good teams do, and you have to give them all the credit in the world.”
Troy’s lone run of the game came on a sacrifice fly to left off the bat of Erica Davis scoring Kacie McAllister. McAllister tripled to right field earlier in the inning.
South Alabama (26-3) picked up an insurance run in the sixth inning on single by Alex Breeden. The Jaguars scored three more runs in the top of the seventh.
The Jags scored two runs on a throwing error by Troy second baseman Michelle Phelps and picked up the other on a triple from Amanda Herron that plated Chloe Rathburn.
The loss for Troy is its fourth straight to open Sun Belt Conference play and the Trojans have lost nine of their last 10 games, something Davis is not happy with.
“I’ll be honest, if I did have visor right now I would pull a Steve Spurier,” said Davis. “It is totally unacceptable for us not to be able to compete for our great fans and the folks that have come before us. I promise you that we will be working as hard as the NCAA will allow us to get ready for Georgia State this weekend.”
Troy hosts Georgia State at the Troy Softball Complex this weekend looking to turn things around.
The Trojans and Panthers will play a three-game set this weekend, featuring a Saturday doubleheader.
First pitch on Saturday is scheduled for 1:30 P.m. Sunday’s game will get underway at noon.


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Blackwell not letting accident spoil her love for the game

Blackwell not letting accident spoil her love for the game

Tara Blackwell coaches her Pike Forest High School Eagles despite being paralyzed from the waist down. (Photo/Joey Meredith)
Tara Blackwell coaches her Pike Forest High School Eagles despite being paralyzed from the waist down. (Photo/Joey Meredith)

Tara Blackwell’s softball career came full circle on Friday.

Blackwell, a former star for the Troy Trojan softball team, led the Pine Forest Eagles against the Charles Henderson Lady Trojans. While a player becoming a coach isn’t uncommon, Blackwell’s journey isn’t you average transition.

After appearing in 98 games for the Trojans, Blackwell’s career was brought to a sudden end due to a freak accident during her junior season. Blackwell suffered a broken neck and was paralyzed from the waist down.

But Blackwell didn’t let her career-ending injury bring an end for her love of the game.

“I never thought my love for the game of softball could ever be more than when I was playing,” said Blackwell. “But I think it is stronger now than it was then. I know how quickly you can lose this game. It’s not just making plays and hitting the ball, I love the camaraderie of a team and being able to do things that some people will never be able to do. Being a coach is like having 13 daughters. I love them with everything I have.”

Blackwell is in her first season as head coach of the Lady Eagles, after serving as a volunteer assistant in 2013. Blackwell had never planned on being a coach, but said her mind changed after watching the 2005 season from the inside of the Troy dugout.

“After I got hurt, Coach Davis let me be part of the team, and that is where I really felt I could coach,” said Blackwell. “I saw things from the dugout that I never saw as a player. You are concentrated on your position in the field, but from the dugout you see everything as a whole and how it all works together. Coaching was in my heart.”

Although she is a native of Pensacola, and is proud to do what she loves in her hometown, Blackwell said Troy, and the citizens of the town, will always hold a special place in her heart.

“There was never a time where I didn’t feel like this wasn’t my second home,” said Blackwell. “

Troy coaches Melanie Davis and Sharon O’Mara remain close with Blackwell, and have put together a magazine-style book to accompany Blackwell’s nomination for the National Courage Award.

Pine Forest was allowed to tour the newly renovated Troy Softball complex on Friday afternoon, and sent the Trojans off to Western Kentucky with good luck signs.

While her players mingled with the college softballers, Blackwell couldn’t help but smile. She feels the trip to Troy will be beneficial to her team.

“They were able to see just how hard other players work on the field,” Blackwell said. “I think a light came on. Some of them said ‘Oh, so that’s what you mean by hustle.’ It was exciting for them. It is a completely different level of play, but I think they all aspire to be there one day. I just want to help them reach their goals in whatever way I can.”

 


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Troy softball plays host to in-state rival Auburn

Troy infielder Taylor Smartt couldn’t think of a better way to open the newly renovated Troy Softball Complex.

She and the Trojans will welcome in the Auburn Tigers Thursday afternoon, and open the 2014 season.

Smartt feels the early-season meeting with the SEC foe will get the Trojans ready for the rigors of Sun Belt play.

“I think its great to play them,” Smartt said. “We get to start it off with a bang, and get a lot of people out here to support the team from the beginning. We are going to do our best to be prepared, but we know that the season is a marathon and not a sprint.”

Auburn opens the season with a new coach, Clint Myers, and returns 14 letter winners from last year’s team.

Myers led Arizona State to national titles in 2008 and 2011.

Troy head coach Melanie Davis said it is sometimes tough to get well-established teams to come to the Trojans’ home field.

“It is never easy to get folks on your schedule,” Davis said. “We traditionally play pretty well at home, and I have had people tell me that they don’t want to lose to Troy. That is a big compliment to what our kids have been able to do through the years. But it is big for us to bring in the Auburn’s and Alabama’s and others to Troy.”

The Trojans return several top athletes from a season ago, including Preseason All-Sun Belt selection Kacie McAllister. McAllister hit .313 with 31 runs scored, 46 hits and nine doubles in 2013 while also leading the SBC in 13 sacrifice bunts. She started every game for the Trojans and led the team with a .985 fielding percentage.

First pitch for the season-opening contest between the Tigers and Trojans is set for a 3 P.m. first pitch from the Troy Softball Complex on Elm St.

 


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‘We feel like champions’

‘We feel like champions’

The newly renovated Troy Softball Complex will host its first game on Thursday against Auburn. The new additions to the stadium include the addition of a second “party” deck above the third base dugout, the instillation of field turf in the outfield and improved sight lines for fans. A covered batting cage is being built adjacent to the field. (Photo/Ryan McCollough)
The newly renovated Troy Softball Complex will host its first game on Thursday against Auburn. The new additions to the stadium include the addition of a second “party” deck above the third base dugout, the instillation of field turf in the outfield and improved sight lines for fans. A covered batting cage is being built adjacent to the field. (Photo/Ryan McCollough)

Troy head softball coach Melanie Davis has seen every major moment in program history.

In fact, she has seen every moment.

Davis, the only head coach in program history, remembers the old Lady Trojan Softball Field, located next to Sartain Hall. She also remembers the move to the new location on Elm Street.

But she never thought the complex would look as “top notch” as it does now.

“I just really can’t describe it,” said Davis. “It is surreal and almost unreal. Walt Disney said ‘If you can dream it, you can do it.’ I think he may have got that from Jack Hawkins (Troy chancellor) or Dr. Hawkins go that from him, because he has made a lot of great things happen. We are thrilled that this has taken place. We feel like champions every day here.”

The complex underwent a major renovation, as the outfield was replaced with artificial grass, while the field itself and the dugouts were lowered to improve on the sight lines for fans.

The upgrades also added an 8000-square foot training facility that includes a locker room, player lounge, batting cages, hitting area, pitching area and training room. The press box was also updated to included offices, a media area with press box and an expanded concessions area, as well as new officials locker rooms.

Ground was broken in September, and while every aspect of the new facility is not 100 percent finished, the team will play host to the Troy Subway Invitational tournament this weekend.

But prior to the tournament, the Trojans will host in-state rival Auburn on Thursday night in the first game in the renovated complex, something senior infielder, and Troy native, Taylor Smartt is excited for.

“I think its great to play them,” Smartt said. “We get to start it off with a bang, and get a lot of people out here to support the team from the beginning. We are going to do our best to be prepared, but we know that the season is a marathon and not a sprint.”

While concentrated on the future of the program, and the season at hand, Davis can’t help but think about the humble beginnings of the softball program some 21 years ago.

“We are very thankful to the people who played in less nice circumstances over the years,” said Davis. “They paid the dues, and helped create the history of the program. Without them, we probably wouldn’t have this beautiful place today.”

Troy opens the 2014 softball season at home against Auburn on Thursday.

First pitch is set for 3 p.m.

 


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Baseball ranked, softball hosts SBC tourney

Troy’s baseball earned a national ranking this week as the Collegiate Baseball Poll spotted them at No. 25.

The Trojans (35-12) are a game behind South Alabama in the Sun Belt Conference standings. Troy travels to face Alabama tomorrow night. The team will then host Arkansas State this weekend.

Here are a few college baseball regional projections that came out last week that have Troy in the field of 64.

Perfect Game USA: Troy in as #2 seed in the Columbia Regional

College Baseball Daily: Troy in as #2 seed in Fayetteville Regional

Chasing Omaha: Troy in as #3 seed in Starkville Regional

Southeastern Baseball: Troy in as #2 seed in Tallahassee Regional

College Baseball Nation: Troy in as #2 seed in Eugene Regional

 

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The Troy softball team will play host to the 2013 Sun Belt Conference Championships which begin on Wednesday.

The Trojans are set to face No. 18 South Alabama in the first round at 5:30 pm.

Troy (20-30) is looking to snap a seven-game losing skid.

Family Night, which is free, will be held tonight. Fireworks, home run derby, etc…