New season: Trojans begin Sun Belt Conference Tournament against Texas State

Published 7:20 pm Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Troy Trojans enters the Sun Belt Conference Tournament as the one of the conference’s hottest teams. They look to cement a spot in the NCAA Tournament with a deep run in Lafayette this week.

The Trojans (38-18, 19-11) secured a three seed in the tournament and will take on Texas State in the opening round.

“There is no reason for me to think our team won’t be prepared,” said head coach Mark Smartt. “We have been good throughout the year in terms of being ready to play.”

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The Trojans won 10 series throughout the regular season. The Trojans finished the season winning six out of their final seven games and are considered to be one of the hotter teams heading into the tournament.

“Every year I think every coach in the country would want their team to be playing well down the stretch,” Smartt said. “We certainly have done that. We have played very well really the last month. We lost the two games against Georgia Southern and since that Sunday game we have lost a couple, but man we have played well. I am really excited about having some momentum heading into the tournament. That’s hard to do. I certainly believe our team’s confidence level is where it needs to be to have success.”

With their string of success, the Trojans have their sights on an at-large big in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. Smartt and the Trojans aren’t willing to take a chance; they want to cement their spot with a tournament championship.

“That is the bottom line,” Smartt said. “It’s not an easy tournament to win. You have to win multiple games in multiple days in a row. You have to play good to do that. Certainly, no team wants to leave it up to other people to decide their fate. Obviously, the tournament win gets the automatic bid and we are going to fight like crazy to accomplish that.”

Andrew Crane is set to log some innings this week. He is coming off an appearance in which he pitched 8.2 shutout innings in Troy’s 3-0 win against South Alabama on Friday.

Crane over his last two outings has allowed just one unearned run over the course of 15 innings.

“He was terrific in that game,” Smartt said. “We really wanted him to finish that game, but he ran out of gas. He showed everything you want to see from your best guy. He has been terrific the last year and half since he has been in that number one slot. I know he will be anxious to get the ball this week.”

Trojan senior and Troy native Joey Denison has led the offense during the final week of play. Denison hit three homeruns in as many games to finish the regular season. Denison was named the Sun Belt Player of the Year after he finished the season hitting .390 with six home runs and 70 RBI.

“Selfishly and personally, I couldn’t be prouder of any player,” Smartt said. “I couldn’t be happier for anyone player after going what he went through last year with the injury. He tried to play through it and just wasn’t able to. I think he has been the best player in the league from week one to week 14. He was awarded with that with the player of the year, which is no small feat. If he plays well this week, then I think our team will be in a good position.”

The Trojans and Bobcats will begin their round one game this afternoon at 4.