Veteran infield leads the way as Trojans prepare for home opener

Published 10:39 pm Wednesday, February 15, 2012

As Troy’s softball team prepares to host the Quality Inn Classic, which begins tomorrow, the team’s highly touted infielders are also looking forward to proving themselves to the country.

The Trojans open the tournament against the sixth-ranked Missouri Tigers at 7p.m. but the top ten ranking doesn’t bother them in the least.

“We’ve beaten some good teams but no one that highly ranked,” first baseman Hayden Gann said. “It would tell the country that we are here to compete against anyone who wants to come play us.”

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Gann, a senior, is coming off a solid season in which she earned second team All-Sun Belt honors after batting .318 with seven home runs and 31 RBI. Gann has started all but seven games in her career as a Trojan.

Joining her on the infield is Nikki Hollett at shortstop, who blistered opponents with a .354 average. The native of Australia belted 20 home runs in 2011 placing her seventh in the nation and just 20 shy of taking over as Troy’s all-time leader in the category.

Hollett says that while her main focus is achieving team goals, there is always the desire to top previous performances.

“There is always pressure to repeat a season like that. I worked the entire preseason to improve on my weaknesses,” she said. “When a pitcher throws to your weakness, I want to be able to hit it.”

Making a statement as an underclassman is Taylor Smartt. The true sophomore batted .277 last year en route to earning National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-Region honors.

A Charles Henderson High School graduate, Smartt started every game for the college Trojans last season including 31 at catcher. This season, Smartt has made the move to third base and seems to be flourishing. In Troy’s 5-0 start in the season-opening Southeastern Louisiana Lion Classic, Smartt led the team in assists with 13 and was 7-for-16 at the plate.

While Smartt takes pride in playing for her hometown university, she doesn’t feel any added pressure in front of the home crowd.

“There was some pressure coming in last season but I feel like I proved myself,” Smartt said. “I want to do the best that I can and be a positive influence for young softball players in Troy.”

The trio is ready to lead the Trojans against one of the top programs in the country and takes great pride in doing the little things to help the team succeed. They are also a main reason they fielded at a .947 clip last weekend.

“Everyday you learn from each other,” Hollett said. “It’s always good to have other good players out there pushing you everyday, making you better.”

The Quality Inn Classic opens tomorrow at 9a.m.