Troy sinks Dolphins

Published 8:40 pm Saturday, March 14, 2009

About the only thing that slowed the Troy University Trojans on Saturday at Riddle-Pace Field was Mother Nature.

The Trojans weathered an hour and 41 minutes in rain delays to pound out 13 hits, including eight for extra base hits, in taking a 10-3 victory over LeMoyne. Troy will try to complete the weekend sweep on Sunday when the two clubs meet again at 1 p.m.

Troy improved to 11-5 overall on the year with the victory while dropping the Dolphins to 2-10.

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“It was a tough day, and a long day,” Trojans coach Bobby Pierce said. “If we hadn’t moved up the start time for the game we might not have been able to get it in.”

The Trojans never trailed in the game, but they were challenged coming out of the second rain delay. Troy held a 4-1 lead when the game was halted at 3:55 p.m., and was threatening to score more with two runners on a no one out.

But, out of the long delay, LeMoyne made a pitching change, sending senior right-hander Brandon Otto to the mound in place of starter Cory Nelson (0-3). Otto got two ground ball outs and a strikeout to keep the Dolphins in the game, and his teammates responded in the sixth.

LeMoyne scored twice in the inning before Travis Burge, the third Troy pitcher of the frame, came on to strikeout Matt Nandin with the bases loaded to get out of trouble.

The challenge seemed to light a fire under the Trojans’ recently cold bats. Troy scored three times in the seventh, on four hits, and three more times in the eighth, thanks to four consecutive doubles, to blow the game open.

“The team seemed to loosen up a little bit at the plate, and that resulted in better bat speed,” Pierce said. “Hitting for doubles is something we preach here from the moment a player arrives, and to get seven doubles tonight is a big positive.”

Junior Ryan Ditthardt was in the middle of the doubles barrage for Troy, going 4-for-4 at the plate with three doubles, three runs scored and two runs batted in. Senior Brett Henry had three hits in the game, two doubles, and drove in three runs while freshman Blake Martz had two hits, including his first collegiate homer, and three RBI.

“Ryan has been so tight at the plate, squeezing the blood out of his bat, but he started to loosen up a little and hit the ball better, like we know he can,” Pierce said. “Blake Martz had a great at bat when he hit the homer. He pulled a pitch foul that was crushed and then went the opposite way on the next pitch for the home run.”

The extra-base barrage for Troy made a winner out of freshman Tyler Ray (2-2), who worked five innings, allowing one unearned run on five hits. He was followed by senior J.J. Whetsel and sophomore Jordan Mathers after the second rain delay, but they struggled before Burge, on his 22nd birthday, shut down the Dolphins for two innings. Junior Chris Sorce recorded the final four outs for Troy, two on strikes.

The Trojans came up with some late-inning heroics on Friday night to down LeMoyne 4-1 in the first game of the weekend series.

After leading 1-0 for most of the game, the Trojans surrendered the lead in the seventh inning when LeMoyne’s Brett Botsford delivered a two-out RBI single.

But the Trojans answered right back in the bottom of the inning. Junior Chad Watson delivered a one-out triple off LeMoyne starter Jeff Tardiff (1-1) and then scored what turned out to be the winning run on a sacrifice fly by Bart Pettus.

The Trojans got some insurance in the eighth when Miles Hoyle his a two-run, two-out opposite field homer. It was one of just five hits allowed by Tardiff in a complete game effort.

“Our scouting report said that he was not a power guy, but that he would fill up the strike zone and get your hitters off-balance,” Trojans coach Bobby Pierce said. “Right now, all of our hitters come into the game off-balance, and he did a good job of keeping them that way.

“Chad finally got the big hit for us on a ball to the gap that he turned into a triple and Bart did a good job of getting him home. Then Miles got the big homer for us the next inning.”

The late runs gave sophomore reliever Drew Hull (1-0) his first win of the year. Hull came on in relief of starter Jason Walls in the seventh inning, but surrendered the lead in that inning.

“Drew pitched well and he made a big play on the bunt in the seventh that kept that from being a big inning for them,” Pierce said. “There are not many guys who can make that play, and he has done it in two straight games.”

Walls allowed just two hits in his six innings of work, but struggled with his control, walking seven. He got a pair of double-play ground balls, one in the third and another in the fourth, to keep LeMoyne off the scoreboard.

The two teams combined for just nine hits in a game that took just 2:24 to play.