Trojans ready for competitive conference

Published 6:18 pm Thursday, February 14, 2019

When baseball season begins later this evening, the Troy Trojans will begin a journey to what they hope is a conference title and a deep run in the NCAA Tournament this spring. The Troy Trojans were picked to finish third in the Eastern Division in the Sun Bunt Conference Preseason Poll in late January.

This prediction comes on the heels of Troy’s second place finish in last season’s Sun Belt Conference Tournament and a trip to the Athens Regional in the NCAA Tournament.

The familiar names are once again predicted to finish at or near the top of the conference this season. Coastal Carolina and South Alabama were predicted to finish 1 and 2 in the East and Louisiana is favored to win the west.

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“It’s the same names,” said head coach Mark Smartt. “Our league is good top to bottom. Our eighth, ninth, 10th best teams can play with anybody.”

Last season the Trojans were one of two Sun Belt teams to make an NCAA Regional. Troy, after finishing in second, was selected as an at-large team, while Coastal Carolina made the tournament via winning the conference championship.

“To win in this league a couple of things have to happen,” Smartt said. “Typically, older teams have success in our league. I’m not suggesting a younger team can’t have success, but experience means a lot at this level. Secondly, you have to be able to pitch well. If you can’t pitch well, it’s difficult to win in the Sun Belt.”

Troy senior catcher Chase Smartt has seen what it takes to navigate through a tough Sun Belt Conference schedule. He believes the challenge will be as tough as ever in 2019. Coastal Carolina enters the season ranked 21 in the Top-25 poll.

“The Sun Belt Conference is a tough challenge,” Smartt said. “It’s like the SEC, just maybe not so dominant. But the teams like Coastal, Lafayette and South (Alabama), everybody can be tough. I think this year is going to be tough; Coastal has been here for three years now and it’s going to be tough.”
The Trojans start the season this evening against Central Michigan beginning at 6 p.m. in the first of a four-game series. The Trojans will begin conference play on March 15 against Arkansas State.