Sun Belt tourney brings influx of people

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Class is out and the students have graduated, but there is still one Troy University activity left before summer begins.

The 2009 Sun Belt Baseball Championship tournament begins in Riddle-Pace Field today at 9 a.m. and runs through Saturday. The tournament brings seven visiting teams and their fans to the Troy area.

The influx of people can only be good for the city, said Jenniffer Barner, Pike County Chamber of Commerce president.

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“One of the good things with having a university in our backyard is that they pull things like this tournament to the area,” Barner said. “And that brings people here that would not normally be in Troy. This is one way we can show people who might not stop here normally that they might want to come back to Troy.”

Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford said it would be good to show all the visitors what Troy can offer.

“The business the tournament will bring to the city is important to us, but it will also be great to have people come from all across the country to see Troy,” Lunsford said. “It gives us an opportunity to show off what we are proud of here. I am excited about this tournament.”

The Sun Belt Conference tournament plays host to the Top-8 teams in the league, as determined by regular season standings. The home-standing Trojans are the No. 3 seed in the tournament and will face No. 6 South Alabama tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the opening round.

Other teams visiting Troy for the week include, No. 1 Middle Tennessee, No. 2 Western Kentucky, No. 4 FIU, No. 5 Lousiana-Lafayette, No. 7 Louisiana-Monroe and No. 8 Florida Atlantic.

Troy athletic director Steve Dennis is excited to get the tournament started.

“We are so happy to bring in this conference tournament in a high profile conference and a sport that everyone loves,” Dennis said.

Troy played host to the softball tournament last year and Dennis said he hopes the baseball tournament can build on the success of the softball program.

“The softball tournament was well received and we are now giving the people in the Wiregrass area a chance to see some of the best baseball around,” he said. “The athletes in this conference are amazing.”

And Dennis said the by-product of Troy being the tournament host is always a good thing.

“You will have X amount of players and fans here and the impact of that on the hotels, restaurants and other merchants in Troy should be great. The residual effect of having this kind of tournament here is always a positive.”

Dennis is positive about the impact the tournament will have on the Troy community.

The tournament opens at 9 a.m. with FIU vs. ULL. Middle Tenn. vs. FAU follows at 12:30 p.m. and Western Kentucky and ULM square off at 4 p.m. before the Trojans face the Jaguars at 7:30 p.m.

The championship game will be played Saturday.