Troy win regular season title

Published 8:03 pm Monday, May 23, 2011

Troy University's Tyler Ray (12) releases a pitch during an NCAA baseball game against the University of Arkansas-Little Rock in Troy, Ala., Friday, March 25, 2011. Troy won 6-2. (Messenger Staff Photo/Thomas Graning)

For the first time since the 2006 season, the Troy Trojans were found dog piling on each other in the middle of the baseball diamond.

With Saturday’s 10-7 victory over rival South Alabama, in Mobile, Troy clinched it’s first regular season Sun Belt Championship in four years.

That win was the team’s 40th of the season and the 15th championship in program’s history.

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The last three championship team were of course headed by Bobby Pierce.

And to see his team come this far, after being picked to finish in the league in fifth place, was a special moment for the Troy coach.

“There are a lot of new faces on this team at the beginning of the season,” Pierce said. “We were looked at as a “rebuilding team”.

But this team has answered the bell time and time again this season, and for that I am very proud of them.”

Now, Troy will turn its attention to the next objective on the checklist, as it will look to accomplish the exact same feat that 2006 team did – win both the regular season and conference tournament championships in the same season.

But it have to do so in a different way than ever before.

For the first time ever, the Sun Belt Conference baseball tournament will be in a round-robin format, as opposed to the old double-elimination format.

The eight teams in the tournament will be separated into two pools, with play beginning on Wednesday.

The two teams with the best records from each pool play will play for the tournament championship on Sunday afternoon.

Pierce said this format would give the winner a better chance of winning games in the regional tournament than in previous years.

“The beauty of this tournament, is each team has an off day and there is a maximum of four games played,” Pierce said.

“We are in hopes that this will better suite our league in terms of competing better at the next level. We will get some experiences with this, this year, and that will help us debate and discuss if we want to continue in the future.”

First up for Troy will be No. 8 seed Arkansas-Little Rock, followed by Florida Atlantic on Thursday and Western Kentucky on Friday.

As of Monday morning, the head coach said he was pretty confident Tyler Ray would be the starter in game one.

The new format will not only give the entire team rest, but the arms of the pitchers, which is an important note should the Trojans move on to the regionals.

“I think the new format was changed more to help pitchers,” Tyson Workman said Monday morning.

“We aren’t going to be six games anymore and as a No. 1 seed, we know we are playing every night (at 7 p.m.). That shouldn’t really effect me, but it is definitely going to help our starters out.”

While Workman has mostly been the team’s closer throughout the season that was not in the case in Saturday’s title-clinching victory.

The 6-foot, 175-pound junior entered in the third inning and went the distance, obtaining several career-highs along the way. Workman threw 149 pitches in seven innings, striking out six, all of which were career bests.

Even with conference tournament on deck for Troy, the right-hander said he fees like he and his teammates will not be anxious going in.

“Winning the regular season title kind of takes the anxiety away from this tournament,” Workman said.

“Now, we can just play our game. I don’t feel like we are going to be pressing too much because we already won a championship. The goal is to win it all though.”