Troy freshmen ready to make an instant impact

Published 7:03 pm Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Troy Trojan baseball team enters the season in need of replacements for graduating seniors from last year’s NCAA Tournament team.

Joey Dennison, Matt Sanders, Andrew Crane, Brandon Lockridge – players that helped paved the road to a successful season – are gone, but the arrival of key freshmen has fans excited for the immediate future of Trojan baseball.

Troy’s 2019 class includes six players named to Perfect Game’s rankings of the top 30 freshman in the Sun Belt Conference. Logan Cerny, Bay Witcher, Tanner Jackson, Taylor Pridgen, Cameron Stewart and Caleb Bartolero.

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“I’m certainly encouraged by the group,” said head coach Mark Smartt. “Coach (Shane) Gierke has done a really good job in his three-plus years identifying good players that fit into what we are trying to do. They’re a talented group. Like any other freshman group, they bring a lot of energy and excitement. They also bring no experience or success to this level.

“You hope they can get off to a good start, but their ability gives them a chance to succeed.”

Cerney, a freshman from Parkview High School in Georgia, and Witcher were both named to Perfect Game’s top 500 incoming freshman at 166 and 434 respectively.

“Logan Cerney has a chance to be our center fielder. He will likely start on opening day,” Smartt said. “He was a very highly decorated high school player. He has had success at every turn. He had a good fall. He was learning on the go, but he’s got tremendous ability. He can run and he can throw and he can swing the bat. So I’m excited about him.”

Witcher is a right-handed pitcher from Loganville High School in Loganville, Georgia.

“He’s a highly decorated player coming out of high school,” Smartt said. “He had a really good fall. He really showed me some things that you maybe don’t see from freshmen. He is really calm and poised, or he has been for us. When the other team comes out and the crowd is here, we’ll see. There is no reason for me to think he won’t.”

Tanner Jackson, a freshman from Houston Academy out of Dothan, is another player that could see playing time rather quickly this season.

“He’s a very physical, strong young player,” Smartt said. “He is an advanced strength kid and strength plays a part in early success. He is ahead of the strength curve. He’s got good ability. We shifted him from the infield to the outfield and he has a chance to make an instant impact.”

These players, along with Troy’s other freshmen, will all be trying to become Troy’s next Sun Belt Freshman of the Year. Rigsby Mosley won the award after the 2018 season and Marc Skinner accomplished the feat in 2014.

“It’s a very good group of young players that I think is going to make an impact quickly on this team,” Smartt said.

They will get their first taste of college baseball this Friday night when the Trojans open up a four-game series with Central Michigan beginning at 6 p.m.