Trojans taste success in 2016

Published 3:00 am Saturday, May 28, 2016

Even though the Trojans’ season unceremoniously came to an end Thursday, 2016 saw positive growth from first-year head coach Mark Smartt’s perspective.

When former head coach Bobby Pierce retired following the 2015 season, long time assistant Smartt took over a program primed for winning. Although a 32-26 record does scream domination, the program took a step in the right direction.

“We were obviously disappointed in our two-game performance during the (Sun Belt) tournament,” Smartt said. “After those two losses it’s hard to feel really good about everything. We will take a couple days and understand what we accomplished. We did some good things.

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“We laid the ground work for the future. We are going to start looking ahead to next year.”

Smartt was a 13-year assistant for the Trojans. Even though his players were very familiar with Smartt, he was happy with how the players responded to his teachings.

“I am very thankful that the players received me as a head coach as well as they did,” Smartt said. “Anytime there is a transition, especially with older players, its difficult. They handled it great and I am appreciative of that.”

Smartt learned a lot during his first year as head coach. It’s those lessons; Smartt believes that will make him a better coach.

“I learned an awful lot and I think I will be a better coach in year number two, because of this experience.” Smartt said. “I appreciate the opportunity and I look to build the program as we move forward.”

The Trojans started the season 7-0 after sweeping Northern Kentucky and winning two out of three against Southeastern Louisiana. The Trojans finished the rest of the regular season .500, but had stretches where they played good baseball. After losing four straight to Louisiana Monroe, Auburn and Mississippi State, The Trojans closed out the regular season 5-1. Two of the wins came at the expense of first place South Alabama.

“We got off to a really good start,” Smartt said. “From that point forward we were a .500 ball club. Some of the things we could handle, some of them we couldn’t. We handled adversity well at times. I think I’ll be better prepared to deal with some of them adversities.”

Troy entered the season knowing the offense would be one that would not blow away teams. They knew they had to find a way to manufacture runs for them to be successful.

“I thought this team’s personality was that of strong character. We dealt with adversity when it came to injuries and other issues.”

The Trojans scored 302 runs in 2016, good enough for just over five runs per game throughout the year.

“I knew we weren’t going to have a real power laden team,” Smartt said. “We did hit a few homeruns. We were the team I thought we would be. When we struggled, we struggled getting the big hit and that’s the game of baseball.”

The Trojans now are tasked with having to replace key seniors, including two from the top of the rotation: Lucas Brown and Grant Bennett. The two seniors combined to go 31-13 in their careers with 291 strikeouts.

“They are going to be difficult to replace,” Smartt said. “To have the success that both guys did, that will be our number one challenge next year, replacing those two.”