Tyler Ray’s solid outing leads Trojans past FIU

Published 5:39 pm Thursday, May 24, 2012


BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Faced with the possibility of making the final start of his Troy career, senior right-hander Tyler Ray returned to his All-America form with a complete-game, six-hitter to lead No. 6 Troy past No. 3 FIU 6-1 in the first game of the Sun Belt Tournament for both clubs on Thursday at Bowling Green Ballpark.

Ray worked out of a bases loaded, one-out jam in the first inning and then moved into cruise control over the final eight innings of the game. After needing 29 pitches to get through the first, Ray used just 11 pitches to retire six straight Panther batters in the second and third.

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He set Troy’s all-time innings pitched record during the fourth inning as he passed Jason Fawcett with 400.1 innings for his career. The victory was Ray’s fifth of the season and 32nd of his career, which moves him within two of the Troy and Sun Belt record; he moved into a tie with New Orleans’ Bryan Cryer for fourth all-time on the Sun Belt wins list.

“FIU had a big chance to score in the bottom of the first, when they really had Tyler in a jam,” Troy head coach Bobby Pierce said. “Like Tyler’s done so much in his career, he found a way to wiggle out of that without any runs scoring; that was a key part of the ballgame right out of the chute.

“The story of the day is Tyler Ray. He knew that, as long as he had one more opportunity left, he was going to take advantage of that. That was the Tyler Ray that was an All-American and Pitcher of the Year in the league last year.”

Danny Collins put the Trojans (27-29) on the board in the second inning when he led off the frame with a towering home run to left field. It was Collins’ 12th home run of the season and fourth in the past 11 games. The sophomore third baseman finished second in the Sun Belt Home Run Derby on Tuesday night with seven homers over two rounds.

Collins finished with three of Troy’s nine hits in the game and five others contributed one each.

After FIU (31-24) manufactured a run in the fifth to tie the game, Troy plated three runs in the eighth inning and two in the ninth to come away with the victory.

Chase Mathis, who was moved into the two hole in the lineup, led off the eighth with a single to right field and Logan Pierce lined a double into the gap in right-center field off FIU reliever Eddy Pidermann to put the Trojans in front 2-1.

Collins followed with a ringing single to left-center for his second RBI of the game and to give Troy a two-run cushion. Boone Shear followed with a grounder to short; Collins beat the throw to second and the throw to first was off the bag. However, the umpires called interference on Collins which wiped both Trojans runners off the bases.

Jakob Nixon, who had just two home runs last season at Middle Georgia College, then hit his third home run in four games and fourth of the season to cap the scoring in the eighth and give Troy a 4-1 lead.

“We didn’t do a whole lot with the bat today, but we certainly did enough and we got some timely hits to score some big runs,” Bobby Pierce said. “All of that adds up to the fact that Tyler was able to complete the game and save our bullpen.”

Ray needed 10 pitches to close out the Panthers in the ninth inning for his third complete game of the season and sixth of his career.

Troy’s next test is No. 2 Arkansas State on Friday at 3 p.m. The winner of the game is in the driver’s seat for a berth in the Championship Game on Sunday. Junior right-hander Ryan Brady (2-3, 4.11) will get the start for Troy and junior right-hander Daniel Wright (3-5, 4.66) will get the call for Arkansas State.

“They’re a really good team, solid throughout,” Bobby Pierce said. “They’re a tough club and playing with confidence. We’ll have to take our grind-it-out, battle-tested group out there and hopefully pitch well. It’s going to be a great, competitive baseball game. We’ll have our hands full, but we’re up for the challenge.”