Trojans head to regionals

Published 4:54 pm Monday, May 30, 2011

Coach Bobby Pierce will lead the Troy Trojans to the NCAA regionals at Vanderbilt.

TROY – Regular season Sun Belt Conference champion and 21st-ranked Troy begins its road to the NCAA College World Series at the Nashville regional hosted by Vanderbilt on Friday.

The regional includes the host Commodores along with Oklahoma State and local program Belmont. The Trojans are the three seed and will face the two seed Cowboys on Friday. Play will continue on Saturday and Sunday with Monday set as an if-needed date.

“I’m very happy to see our name come up,” head coach Bobby Pierce said. “I felt very good about our resume coming in to today. Sun Belt Conference champions. 42 wins. This team has accomplished a lot of things and been a joy to coach. Going into this year, having lost so many guys from last year and a couple to pro ball, it was a rebuild-type season on paper. Obviously, they have met and exceeded all expectations with their play on the field.

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“They are a very deserving team to get into a regional tournament – NCAA postseason play. We will start today getting prepared for the Nashville regional.”

The regional berth is the fifth all-time in the Troy program’s Division I history (1995, 1997, 2006 and 2007), and the third in head coach Bobby Pierce’s tenure (2006 and 2007). The Trojans are 2-8 all-time in regional play, but have never faced any of the three schools participating in Nashville in postseason play.

Troy is 1-4 in five meetings with Vanderbilt, most recently in 2001. The Trojans do hold a 7-6 mark against Belmont from the program’s time as a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference – the last meeting was in 2005. Troy has never faced Oklahoma State on the diamond.

In total, three teams from the Sun Belt Conference were selected for the field of 64. Joining Troy as an at-large selection was FIU. The Golden Panthers will travel to the Chapel Hill regional hosted by North Carolina. Lastly, tournament champion UALR heads to Corvallis, Ore. as an automatic qualifier at the site hosted by Oregon State.

2011 marked the eighth time in 13 years that the conference has produced three regional selections.

No players remain for Troy’s last regional appearance in 2007. The Trojans dropped its only two games in Oxford, Miss. to Southern Miss (L, 14-2) and Sam Houston State (L, 7-6).

Vanderbilt finished the regular season as tri-champions of the Southeastern conference along with Florida and South Carolina and lost in the championship game of the SEC Tournament to Florida on Sunday. The Commodores set a school record with nine losses in the regular season, matched the school record with 22 SEC wins and 44 regular season wins are the second-most in Vanderbilt history. Junior first baseman Aaron Westlake paces seven Commodore regulars hitting over .300. 2011 SEC Pitcher of the Year Grayson Garvin (12-1) along with RHP Sonny Gray (10-3) anchor the ‘Dores rotation.

Oklahoma State posted a 35-23 overall record and 14-12 mark in Big 12 in 2011. The Cowboys are coached by Frank Anderson and feature four All-Big 12 selections in junior infielder Zach Johnson , sophomore designated hitter Dane Phillips, junior outfielder Jared Womack, and junior two-way player Gabe Weidenaar. The Cowboys’ selection marks the sixth selection in the last eight years since Anderson took over.

The Belmont Bruins will make their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins will enter play this weekend having won four-straight games to take home the Atlantic Sun tournament crown.

Senior infielder Derek Hamblen is one of the Bruins’ top offensive performers and earned the A-Sun Tournament MVP award. Junior right-hander Matt Hamann holds a 9-1 mark on the mound.

Fans wishing to purchase tickets can contact the Vanderbilt ticket office at 615-322-GOLD (4653).