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Trojans battle to whoop Jax State

TROY TROJANS

After jumping out to a big early lead, the Troy Trojans found themselves having to battle from behind all night against visiting Jacksonville State on Wednesday at Riddle-Pace Field.

The Trojans were up to the challenge, scoring four times in the seventh inning to twice more in the eighth to take a 13-11 victory over the Gamecocks and split the season series. JSU won 7-3 on March 23 in Jacksonville.

The Trojans improved to 24-20 overall with the win, their sixth in the last seven games. The four games over .500 on the year equals their best mark of the year.

Jacksonville State falls to 21-20 on the year with the loss.

Troy jumped on JSU with a four-run third inning, but then immediately fell into a hole when the Gamecocks answered with a seven-run fourth. From that point, the Trojans had to scratch and claw to get back into the game.

“Coming from behind was big,” Trojans coach Bobby Pierce said. “We got off to a good start. Nick Ward pitched well for us, but he reached his pitch count. We got behind, but I liked the way we responded. Adam Bryant, Ryan Ditthardt and Miles Hoyle all had great nights, and if we can get all of those guys going, then we have a chance to keep this streak rolling.”

It was that trio of Trojans, who kept leading the charge as Troy battled from behind. Bryant had two hits in the game, including his 14th homer of the year, and drove in three. Hoyle had just one hit, but it was a big three-run double in the seventh to put the Trojans back on top, albeit briefly.

Ditthardt had three hits in the game, including the game-winning two-run double in the eighth, and drove in four. He fell just a triple short of hitting for the cycle.

Ditthardt had to be the hero in the eighth inning because Trojans closer Chase Whitley (5-2), who came on with an 11-10 lead in the eighth, surrendered a game-tying solo homer to Jake Sharrock on the first pitch he threw.

After allowing the homer, Whitley retired the next six Gamecocks he faced to preserve the victory.

“Chase wasn’t real sharp tonight, but he was good enough to get the job done,” Pierce said. “I just liked the way our club kept responding, coming back and getting hits. We have seen that kind of thing here a hundred times, but maybe that is the kind of thing that will help get this team rolling.”

JSU senior Bill Henke (2-1), who was the sixth of seven hurlers in the game for the Gamecocks, took the loss, allowing Ditthardt’s eighth inning double.

The Gamecocks made the Trojans battle from behind by scoring seven times in the fourth inning against a trio of Troy pitchers.

After Ward worked the first two innings for Troy, allowing just two hits, Cass Abercrombie came in and gave up five runs on four hits. Senior Tim Wheeler followed him and hit a batter before walking another. Andrew Edge then delivered a three-run triple for a 7-4 JSU lead.

The Gamecocks added two in the fifth on a two-out single by Todd Cunningham and scored a single run in the sixth as a result of a throwing error by pitcher Robby Loew.

All six Troy pitchers benefitted greatly in the game by some outstanding glove work on the infield, which prevented the Gamecocks from scoring more runs when they had chances.

“With the way we played defense on the infield tonight, it gave us a chance to come back,” Pierce said. “Shohei (Fujita) had a couple of great plays at second base, Ditty had a couple of nice plays at first and T.J. (Rivera) made some good plays at third. It was an overall great night for our club.”

Ditthardt led the Trojans, who only had nine hits in the game, with three. Bryant and Todd McRae had two hits each. Cunningham led the Gamecocks’ 12-hit attack with three while Edge, Sharrock and Daniel Adamson had two each.

The Trojans will hit the road tomorrow for a weekend Sun Belt Conference series at ULM. The Warhawks are ninth in the league race and are the only team that can catch Troy and knock the Trojans out of the Sun Belt Tournament.

“I think this will be the biggest series of the year,” Pierce said. “I am sure their competitiveness will have them ready to play because, if we win this series, it will likely be their last hurrah. We have to be ready to match their intensity.”

The Trojans and Warhawks will open their series on Friday night at 7 p.m. from Warhawk Field in Monroe, La.