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Troy edges Ospreys

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — For eight innings Tuesday night, the Troy Trojans got outstanding pitching against North Florida.

But, for one inning the Troy bullpen struggled, and it almost cost the Trojans a victory. After giving up four runs in the bottom of the ninth, and with the potential tying and winning runs on base, Troy closer Josh Storm finally closed out UNF, securing an 8-7 victory.

“North Florida is not a team that is ever going to give up, as was evident in the ninth inning tonight,” Trojans coach Bobby Pierce said. “You have to give them credit for continuing to battle until the final out.”

It looked as if Troy would cruise to an easy win after a trio of Troy pitchers held North Florida to just one hit through the first 7.1 innings. Junior starter Tim Wheeler (1-0), who was making his first start since off-season shoulder surgery, was dominant over the first four innings.

Wheeler allowed one hit, to the second batter of the game, and walked one while striking out six.

“I thought Tim pitched great,” Pierce said. “For it to be his first time out as a starter, he was outstanding.”

UNF starter Michael Kelly (0-1) was the first of five pitchers in the game for the Ospreys.

Drew Hull retired the first nine men he faced before giving up a one-out single in the eighth inning. But, by that time Troy had pushed its lead to 8-2 and appeared to be in control.

The Trojans got on the board in the second when Brett Henry scored on a double-play grounder. Chad Watson followed with a triple to plate Daryl Otwell and give Troy a 2-0 lead.

The lead grew to 3-0 in the fifth when J.R. Myers scored on a Henry sacrifice fly.

After the lead was cut to 3-2, Troy plated three runs in the seventh and two in the eighth. Michael Precise delivered a two-run homer and Otwell plated Ryan Ditthardt with a ground out.

Myers added to the lead with an RBI triple in the eighth and then scored on a sacrifice fly by Precise.

Hull gave up a run in the eighth by allowing three consecutive singles.

Storm came on to start the ninth, and surrendered three consecutive hits, two singles and an RBI double, before getting Wilson to strike out. Michael Smith, who had three hits in the game for UNF, followed with a three-run homer, cutting the Troy lead to 8-7.

He got out of the jam, and preserved the win.

“I was happy that we were able to get a lot of hits (13) in the game tonight, but we left too many runners on base (12),” Pierce said. “I think we were lulled to sleep by the big lead and we can let that happen.”

The two teams will conclude their mid-week series tomorrow night, with the first pitch slated for 6 p.m.