Published 10:31 pm Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Troy breaks ugly four-game losing streak with comeback win over Alabama A&M
Troy clawed its way out of an early four-run hole, and claimed a 9-6 win over Alabama A&M Wednesday night at Riddle-Pace Field in Troy.
Alabama A&M scored three runs, on three hits, in the first inning and picked up one more in the second against Troy starter Jesse Nelson prompting a pitching change in the third inning.
Troy turned to Levi Tate, and the left-handed reliever delivered. Tate threw five innings of two-hit baseball and struck out eight of the 15 batters he faced.
“The first thing you have to do is throw strikes and take command of the zone,” said Tate. “Good things happen when you throw a lot of strikes. My changeup was really working for me tonight, and being able to throw it off the fastball was big for me.”
Tate’s outing set a career-high for strikeouts, and drew praise from Troy head coach Bobby Pierce.
“I am really pleased with how Levi Tate pitched today,” Pierce said. “He did exactly what we wanted him to do, and that was to come in and put some zeros on the board and give our offense a chance to get back in it. He held them there for four innings.”
Troy pitching coach Brad Phillips made the change at the start of the third inning, and Tate took Phillips’ pitching motto to the hill with him.
“He always tells us that our best stuff can beat their best stuff,” said Tate. “I went out there with that in my mind and was able to give our offense a chance to come back.
Troy chipped away the four-run Bulldog lead, picking up one run in the second, two in the fourth and one in the fifth before exploding for five big runs in the sixth inning.
Justin Hancock walked to lead off the inning, and later scored to give Troy the lead on a line-drive single off the bat of Garrett Pitts. Later in the inning, Troy strung together three consecutive RBI at-bats, including a bases-loaded bunt single from Matthew Howard.
Pierce said the bunt is one of Howard’s better weapons, and was happy to see him use it in that situation.
“They don’t ever need a signal to use one of their best weapons,” said Pierce. “Muggsy laid it down perfectly. It was a beautiful bunt, and it opened the door for us to score some more. He is great at that, and it was the perfect time and place to lay one down.”
Alabama A&M picked up two more runs late in the game on a line-drive home run over the scoreboard in right field, but Ben Tidwell shut down the Bulldogs in the ninth inning to seal the win.
After four ugly losses in a row, Pierce feels the win over a “much improved A&M ball team,” is a positive for his team.
“It is a step in the right direction,” said Pierce. “We still have work to do, but tonight is a good win for us. We had lost four in a row, so it’s a step in the right direction, but we have to take more than a step.”
Troy hosts Western Kentucky this weekend.