Nationals are State Bound

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 22, 2001

Sports Editor

After successfully navigating through the sub-district and district tournaments, the Troy National team leaves this morning for Fairhope and a shot at the Dixie Minor State Championship.

Troy will take on the host Fairhope team at 8 p.m. on Monday night.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Troy head coach Billy Hixon said he really didn’t know what kind of advantage or disadvantage he would have against Fairhope. As hosts of this year’s state tournament, Fairhope received an automatic bye through sub-district and district play.

"I know Fairhope is a baseball town and they usually have tough teams," Hixon said. "We’re not going to take them lightly."

Eight other teams besides Troy and Fairhope will be competing in the tournament including: Oxford, AUM Gold, Grand Bay, Prattville National, Chelsea, Moundville and Fort Payne.

Hixon said the Troy Nationals

faced AUM Gold in two practice games prior to the start of postseason play and fell both times to the team from Montgomery, 5-3 and 9-5.

"But we’ve improved a lot since then," he said. "At that time, we were still in the process of working out what players we needed to have in what position."

Apparently Hixon and assistant coaches David Starling and Warren Taylor found the right combination quickly as Troy opened with sweep of the sub-district tournament in Elba and finished off Dothan Southern 11-1 on Wednesday night for the district title.

Hixon said he feels the strongest part of his team is pitching and defense. Hixon said he started off the tournaments wanting to use the 2-2-2 formula of pitching – where three different pitchers work two innings each during a game – but he never followed it.

"Our two top pitchers were Jake Smith (.461 ERA) and William Teal (1.636 ERA) and there were a lot of times in those two tournaments where those two were getting the outs, but the game was still close," Hixon said. "If that’s the case, if one of our pitchers is pitching good and holding the other team off base, I have no problem with leaving them in there."

Hixon said he knows of one Dothan team that Troy faced where 2-2-2 equalled an early exit from the tournament.

"The Dothan coaches followed it (2-2-2) every game and most teams were getting all their hits and runs of the middle pitcher," he said. "If they had left their opener in just a little longer they might have ended up winning the games they lost."

Troy’s hitting isn’t overwhelming, according to Hixon, but it is consistent. Alex Adams came out of the district tournament batting .700 with hits in all six games. Will Starling was a close second with a .636 and Anthony McBryde proved Troy had some pop in its bat with a homerun against Ozark to open the tournament.

"We’ve got some kids that can hit the ball hard, but we’ve had some timely hits during key situations," he said. "There’s been times when the top of the order has been struggling a bit and the bottom

of the order had to pull us through."

Hixon said the biggest thing he and his assistant coaches have tried to stress is working together as a unit.

"Having a team concept is what makes you successful," he said. "Plus, we want the team to exhibit a lot of character and class on the field. The parents and the support they have given to us says a lot about that. It’s easier to teach a kid about having character when their parents are setting a good example outside the fence."

And as far as his team’s chances at state?

"I like them," Hixon said. "I believe we have a real good chance, but you never know until you see what’s on the other side of the field."