Troy takes weekend series from Florida Atlantic

Published 10:31 pm Monday, April 29, 2013

Some moves baseball coaches make can paint them as a genius, others not so much. Troy head coach Bobby Pierce came across as a baseball virtuoso on Sunday when in the fifth inning trailing 2-0 he lifted the slumping Ali Knowles in favor of Jo-El Bennett.

With Garrett Pitts on first base, Bennett, in what was at the moment just his second plate appearance in 11 days, wasted little time before he deposited a 2-1 pitch over the left field fence to tie the game. Bennett would finish the game 1-for-3.

The Trojans (32-12, 13-8 Sun Belt) would go on to win the game, 5-3, and the series. It was Troy’s fourth Sun Belt Conference series victory in seven tries this season.

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Troy routed the Owls in Friday’s series opener, 8-3. Senior pitcher Tanner Hicks (6-2) tossed his second consecutive complete game and was one strike away from a shutout. Hicks struck out nine and allowed just six hits.

With two strikes and two outs in the ninth, Florida Atlantic’s Tyler Rocklein hit a three-run home run to break up Hick’s shutout. The inning was the only one in which an Owls runner past first base.

Troy first baseman Trae Santos hit a pair of home runs in the game and Josh McDorman was 3-for-3.

In a league that is still very much up for grabs Troy earned itself a big boost in the conference standings and in the national RPI rankings. The series win boosted the Trojans to 32nd in the RPI.

The only two Sun Belt schools above Troy in the rankings are South Alabama and Louisiana-Lafayette, both defeated Troy in conference series earlier this season. The second-place Trojans will get another shot at conference leader South Alabama in the final Sun Belt series of the season May 16-18 in Mobile.

The Sunday victory came on the heels of a rare shutout of Troy. Florida Atlantic topped the Trojans, 1-0 on Saturday and held the league’s most potent offense to just four hits, three of which came off the bat of Tyler Vaughn. Troy will not play a midweek game this week. They will have plenty of time to rest up for another big conference series as Florida International visits Riddle-Pace Field for a three-game series May 3-5.