TSU baseball faces pivotal

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 31, 2000

weekend series with Bears

From Special Reports

Troy State (13-18/4-5) hosts Mercer (9-18/2-7) in a key Trans America Athletic Conference series this Friday (6:30 p.m. CST) and Saturday (1 p.m.) at Riddle-Pace Field. The Trojans are currently tied for sixth with a 4-5 league mark. The top six teams advance to the conference tournament in Jacksonville, Fla.

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The Trojans got off to a rough start, but they have shown signs of life. The young team has won four of its last five games with the lone loss coming on Tuesday, 11-8, on a late rally by sixth-ranked Auburn.

Mercer comes in as losers of 10 of its last 13 games. Included among the Bears nine wins are South Alabama (4-0) and Stetson (12-3).

This is the second of five consecutive series that will make or break the Trojans title hopes. The sweep over Jacksonville State was a good start. TSU follows Mercer at Georgia State (Apr. 7-8), Samford (Apr. 14-15) and at Campbell (Apr. 21-22). Those are the five teams most likely to battle it out for the five and six spots to make the tournament.

"The top four spots are pretty set unless something unexpected changes," said Head Coach John Mayotte. "It is important to keep moving forward and building on the Jacksonville State series."

TSU is hitting .268 overall, .266 in the conference. It showed a vast improvement at the plate last weekend hitting .361 against JSU.

There are a few hot hitters of late with junior Casey Smith (Cottonwood, Ala.) leading the way hitting safely in 13 of the last 14 games. During that span, he is 21 of 49 (.429) but with just one extra-base hit, a double. Senior Derrel Kirkland (Apopka, Fla.) is hitting .415 (17-41) with two homers, 14 RBI, three doubles and nine runs scored over the last 11 games.

Senior Marek Driver (Beaconsfield, Quebec) is hitting .452 (14-31) in his last nine games, .583 (7-12) in the last three. In the last nine he has four doubles, eight RBI and six runs scored. He is hitting .632 (12-19) in league games.

Sophomore Collin Holder (Montgomery, Ala.) appears to be rounding into form hitting .571 (4-7) in the last two games with two double, one homer, three RBI and two runs scored. Junior Jonathan Smithers (Tampa, Fla.) has hit safely in the last four games during which he is hitting .500 (6-12) with a double, home run, three runs scored and four RBI. His on-base percentage over that span is .684 with an .833 slugging percentage.

Pitching and defense are a key to the club’s chances the rest of the spring. Overall, TSU has a .952 fielding percentage. In TAAC play, that rises to .963. Against JSU, the Trojans had a .970 fielding percentage with just three errors in 100 chances. TSU’s fielding percentage over the last 10 games is .968.

Smithers has exhibited an outstanding arm from right field including throwing out a Faulkner runner at first base on a usual routine single. He has two assists to date.

The infield has a fielding percentage of .9498 thus far, while the starters are at .9503. Senior second baseman Todd Lancaster (Florala, Ala.) has made just one error in his last 66 chances (.985).

Pitching wise, senior righty Cale Wright (Wellington, Ala.), has the staff’s hot hand. He pitched the team’s first shutout of the season in last Saturday’s 8-0 win at Jacksonville State. He is 1-2 in three league starts with a 3.86 ERA. In last week’s sweep of JSU, the staff posted a 2.74 ERA.