Bad inning costs Trojans loss
For the third time this season, one bad inning cost Troy senior right-hander Andrew Dickinson.
This time the bad inning was the third against the Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky. In that frame WKU scored five times on six hits, which was enough as Troy dropped the first game of the weekend series 7-4.
The Hilltoppers, who come in ranked 27th in the nation, improved to 31-14 overall and 12-7 in Sun Belt Conference play while dropping the Trojans to 21-20 overall and 8-11 in league play.
The victory for WKU senior right-hander Matt Ridings (8-1) was the 33rd of his stellar career, which moves him past former UNO standout Bryan Cryer into a tie for second in Sun Belt history with former Old Dominion standout Jim Hvizda. He will tie for the all-time Sun Belt record for career wins with former South Alabama hurler Jason Norton with his next win.
For Dickinson (5-4), the third inning included two infield hits, two ground balls through the infield, a solid single and an RBI double. The total damage was that nine men came to the plate for the Hilltoppers.
Dickinson only made two other mistakes in working his third complete game of the year. Those mistakes led to solo homers from Matt Rice in the sixth inning and Monte Ketchum in the ninth. He allowed 10 hits in the game and struck out seven while not allowing a walk.
The Trojans had chances to score against the Hilltoppers, but left runners on base in six of nine innings. Troy plated a pair of runs in the fourth, one on a double by T.J. Rivera and another on a Todd McRae single.
Troy added another run in the sixth when Shohei Fujita was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, but missed out on a chance at a big inning when Chad Watson struck out the end the threat. The strikeout was one of 10 for the Trojans in the game, marking the eighth time this year Troy has hit double figures.
The strikeout of Watson was also the final batter Ridings faced. He worked six innings allowing three runs on six hits while striking out six for the win. Bart Carter, Ross Hammonds and Rye Davis divided up the final three innings, with Davis earning his eighth save of the season.
Troy scored a run in the eighth off Carter when Rivera doubled for the second time in the game and scored on a double by Miles Hoyle. After Fujita delivered a single off Hammonds, Jake Sullivan pinch hit against Davis and flew out to right to end the threat.
Rivera and McRae had two hits each to lead the Trojans while Rice had three hits and drove in two runs in the game for WKU. Chase Whitley did have a hit in the game for Troy to run his hitting streak to 12 games but Adam Bryant was held hitless, snapping his streak at 10.
The top four in the Troy order managed just two hits in 19 at bats in the game and accounted for eight of the 10 strikeouts.
The Trojans will try to draw even in the series on Saturday when they send sophomore right-hander Tyler Ray (5-3, 5.55) to the mound to face WKU senior right-hander Shane Cameron (4-1, 4.84). The game is scheduled for a 3 p.m. start and will be televised by CSS and CST across the Southeastern part of the country.