Troy baseball within striking distance

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, April 18, 2013

After 15 games of Sun Belt Conference action, the Troy baseball team is 8-7 and within striking distance of the top spot in the league standings.

Currently, the six teams at the top of the leader board are separated by just two games. Troy enters the weekend’s three-game series with Arkansas-Little Rock in a three-way tie for second with Louisiana-Lafayette and Florida International. South Alabama, Florida Atlantic and Western Kentucky are tied for first with league records of 10-5.

The Trojan War between the foes with matching nicknames this weekend could catapult or sink Troy’s season.

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Arkansas-Little Rock (18-18, 5-10 Sun Belt) comes into the weekend after a two-game, midweek series sweep of No. 13 Oklahoma. Troy (26-11, 8-7) picked up a pair of wins as well defeated Alabama A&M on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Troy will look to keep up its hot hitting. The Trojans are second nationally in scoring averaging 8.2 runs per game. Troy is also second in double and slugging percentage.

One of the biggest questions heading into the weekend is the status of first baseman Trae Santos. The junior was pulled from Wednesday’s game in the first inning after injuring a hamstring. Santos is seventh in the NCAA in RBIs (47) and 11th in home runs (10).

Danny Collins continues to drive the Trojans offense batting .400 and his 52 RBIs are good enough for third nationally.

Troy will shake up its pitching rotation for the first time this season. Right-hander Tanner Hicks (4-2, 4.21) will start Friday’s series opener as he has done all season. Shane McCain (6-0, 3.81) will be bumped up a day and pitch on Saturday while Ryan Sorce (4-0, 2.70) will take the ball in Sunday’s finale.

Troy will face Sun Belt Conference Preseason Pitcher of the Year Chance Cleveland (4-5, 3.00) on Friday.

UALR leads the Sun Belt with 35 home runs as a team and ranks second behind Troy with 93 doubles.

Friday’s game is set to begin at 6 p.m. while Saturday and Sunday’s start times are set for 1 p.m.