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Trojans open season in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

It has been nearly nine months since the UNO Privateers ended the Troy Trojans baseball season in the Sun Belt Tournament and Bobby Pierce said the Trojans are ready to get back on the field.

“The team has looked well in the final preparation for the season and it has been a long time since that last game until now,” Pierce said. “We are ready to see an opponent across the diamond and this opening tournament should be a good test for us.”

The Trojans open the season on the road in the Myrtle Beach Invitational in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

“It will be a great breath of fresh air to get back into the competitive atmosphere,” Pierce said.

The Trojans have been involved in workouts or practice since August and Pierce said one of the biggest strengths of this year’s team will be pitching depth.

“We will have a great amount of pitching depth in our starters and in the bullpen this year,” he said. “It should be a lot better than we have had in previous years.”

And Pierce said the rock solid defense that led the Sun Belt in fielding percentage last year will be back in ’09.

Opening the season on the mound for Troy will be Jason Walls on Friday in the first game of the tournament against Kentucky. Tyler Rain will take game two against Southern Illinois. Travis Burge will take the mound against James Madison in game three and Jeff Green will start against Southern Illinois in game four.

Backing up the starters from the bullpen will be Chris Sorce, Jordan Mathers, J.J. Whetsel and reigning First-Team All Sun Belt closer Josh Storm.

Pierce said the Trojans have four other pitchers who could see some action this weekend.

The Trojans have 10 games before they jump into Sun Belt play and Troy has been picked to finish second in the Sun Belt by the league coaches.

“Several teams in our league had several players leave for various reasons and it is awfully hard to compare teams for a preseason poll, but I definitely agree that Western Kentucky is the top team in the league,” Pierce said. “They won the tournament last year, played well down the stretch and they have most of their guys coming back. But when you get to Nos. 2-7 or 8 you might as well flip a coin. It is hard to tell who is going to be on top in the preseason and that is why you play the games.”

Pierce said he will use those 10 games before Sun Belt action to figure out a lineup that will help the Trojans compete for that Sun Belt crown.

“We plan to play a lot of people in Myrtle Beach and we will try and decide on a lineup as we get closer to the start of Sun Belt play,” he said.

Every baseball team has to account for losses from the previous year and the Trojans will have to overcome the loss of two key players. Beau Brooks was taken in the major league baseball draft last year and Bryan Miller graduated.

“I don’t know that you can replace a player like Bryan Miller with all that he did for us last year,” Pierce said. “And with Brooks leaving as a junior that is one of the reasons why Stephen Felix is behind the plate for us after two years in the outfield.”

Pierce said this year’s squad has bonded well in the preseason and only time will tell if they can grab a Sun Belt Championship on the baseball diamond this year.

“We had a great recruiting class and we have some guys returning from last year,” Pierce said. “The mix and camaraderie on this team was great from the start and that is a good thing to see. They are hard working players and they seemed to gel out there early. All the signs indicate we have a good ball club and we are excited about getting the season started.”