Trojans earn first NCAA Regional bid since 2018

Published 8:43 am Tuesday, May 30, 2023

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The Troy Trojans players and coaching staff gathered together on Monday morning and waited patiently – or impatiently for some – as ESPN’s annual NCAA Selection Show rolled on.

Troy Baseball had not made it to the regional round of the NCAA Baseball Tournament since 2018 but the 2023 squad boasted 39 wins in the regular season, the 38th RPI in the country and a non-conference RPI of six. The Trojans also feature four All-Sun Belt players and the Sun Belt Player of the Year.

The wait came to an end as Troy’s meeting room exploded with ESPN revealing Troy as the No. 3 seed in the Tuscaloosa Regional, receiving an at-large bid. Troy will face No. 2 seed Boston College in the Tuscaloosa Regional.

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“It was a big sigh of relief,” Troy catcher Clay Stearns said with a smile. “I was really confident we would get in but it’s been a long three days of waiting. I probably slept an hour last night but it was really great to share that moment with these guys you go to war with every day. It just means a lot.”

Sun Belt Player of the Year Shane Lewis called it a dream come true.

“It’s something I’ve always dreamed of doing and I’m sure I’m not the only one in that room that was dreaming about being on the selection show and hearing your name called,” Lewis said. “It’s one of the greatest things ever. I’m so happy and, like Clay said, relieved. The wait was a tough one and I lost a lot of sleep but we get to play more baseball and that’s great.”

Troy’s second-year head coach Skylar Meade said the regional bid means a lot to the entire school but he’s most happy for his players.

“This is what we’ve dreamed of since we started (practices) in August,” Meade emphasized. “We knew we were capable of doing it. I’m sure there were some moments where some things happened with the team – injuries and things like that – that could make people question it, but all the players, support staff and coaches knew this was the goal the entire time.

“For it to come to fruition this morning is really cool for everyone involved but especially for the players. They’re the ones out there sacrificing everyday. I’m really happy for them and excited. To do great things you have to get to the dance, so I’m glad our resume was respected and was awarded with an NCAA Tournament bid.”

Meade said he knew Troy’s success would come but maybe not as fast as it has.

“In our wildest dreams I don’t think maybe we thought it would happen this fast,” he said. “I’m self proclaimed not very patient but we’ve done a lot of things that go unseen to get to this point. The nine-hour car rides on the road recruiting to connections you make along the way to alterations you make on the roster, all of those different things play into it.

“I won’t say I’m totally surprised that it happened this quick, because I’m not, but at some point I think we’ll take a breath and think and say, ‘Wow, this was really quicker than it probably should have been.’ That’s why you push so hard, though.”

Senior infielder Caleb Bartolero has seen the progress the program has made from the beginning.

“It’s awesome being a fifth-year senior,” Bartolero said. “This is a special group of guys and it’s super special that I could come back and be a part of this.”

All of the excitement and celebration is over, though, as the Trojans set their sights to Tuscaloosa and the 35-18 Boston College Eagles.

“I know they’re incredibly tough, they’re northeast tough,” Meade said of Boston College. “I’ve been on the road with their coaching staff and they have high-level players. They have some real pro prospects.

“They have some really potent hitters in that lineup and a pitching staff that has stayed together and been healthy most of the year. They’re a complete team. A lot of people thought they would be a host (team) going into maybe late last night, so they’ll be a challenge and we’ll be ready for it.”

This is a first-time matchup between the two schools and is Troy’s first appearance in the regional tournament since 2018. It’s also the third time Troy has traveled to Tuscaloosa for Regionals, doing so in 1997 and 2006. The Trojans have an overall 6-14 record in seven regional appearances.

Troy and Boston College will meet at 2 p.m. on Friday, June 2, at Tuscaloosa’s Sewell-Thomas Stadium. No. 1 seed Alabama will then play No. 4 seed Nicholls State at 7 p.m. with both games streaming on ESPN+.