TROY, Ala. – Just another mid-week game has been the slogan for Troy and head coach Bobby Pierce this week.
But, an 11-year hiatus between visits from 23rd-ranked Alabama brought the second-largest crowd to Riddle-Pace Field in the history of the program warmed up the bats for the Trojans in the middle innings.
Troy rode the momentum of the crowd and continued to swing a hot bat from the weekend, claiming a 6-2 victory over Alabama.
The win by Troy (6-2) is the first victory over a ranked team since the Trojans defeated Coastal Carolina in 2006.
“We talked about this week with the team,” Troy coach Bobby Pierce said. “We told them after they beat Alabama that the big challenge would be to come back against Samford tomorrow night. That is not a knock on Samford, but kids have a way of having a letdown. What people are going to remember is what we do tomorrow and how we come out and play against Samford. If we don’t come out and play well, people won’t remember what we did tonight.”
After trailing 2-0 heading to the fourth, the Trojans rallied for six runs in two innings to take a 6-2 lead through five.
After falling behind early to Alabama (5-3), the Trojans rallied in the fourth inning to take a 3-2 lead after Ryan Ditthardt took a 1-0 fastball off Alabama reliever David Head and drilled it over the left field wall for a two-run homerun. The ball left Ditthardt’s bat so fast that the 2,413 people in Riddle-Pace Field erupted before the ball reached the fence.
Before Ditthardt’s fourth homerun of the season, the Trojans were able to trim the lead to 2-1 when Steven Rosado scored on a Michael Precise singled up the middle with one out in the fourth.
Alabama started a comeback in the top of the fifth when they loaded the bases with one out off Burge. Troy head coach Bobby Pierce went to senior reliever Jeff Green, who promptly came out of the pen to throw one pitch to Alabama’s Brandon May. The junior hit a one-hopper that shortstop Bart Pettus flipped to J.R. Myers, who fired to first to complete the inning-ending double play and end the Tide rally.
“Green threw the biggest pitch of the night,” Pierce said. “He came in and got the groundball with their best hitter on deck. That forced him to have lead-off the next inning. When you come in and throw strikes, good things happen.”
The Trojans came back to load the bases in the bottom of the fifth off Nathan Kilcrease (0-2), before Alabama reliever Adam Scott made the second mistake of the night from a Tide pitcher. After throwing his first two pitches for strikes, Scott had to throw a strike to Precise with the bases loaded and a 3-2 count. However, he left a fastball out over the plate and Precise hit a towering double off the top of the scoreboard to clear the bases and give Troy a 6-2 lead.
“I was very fortunate in that at-bat,” Precise said. “They changed pitchers when I got to the plate from a lefty to a righty. Coach Pierce told me to lay off the slider, and the first pitch was a slider. It was pretty, but I had to lay off it. He came back with a fastball, and then brought back another one with the full count.”
Before Troy rallied, Alabama was able to get on the board first in the in-state contest courtesy of a Kent Matthes home run in the top of the first inning. After Josh Rutledge led off the game with a single through the left side, Troy starter Travis Burge retired the next two Crimson Tide batters before Matthes came to the plate.
Burge left a 1-1 fastball up to Matthes, who hit the ball right back up the middle and over the centerfield wall for the early 2-0 Alabama lead. The home run was the seventh for Matthes this season, and his sixth straight game with a home run – a new Alabama record.
However, after falling behind the Tide in the first inning, Pierce turned to five pitchers to shutout Alabama for the final eight innings.
Green (2-0) pitched the remainder of the fifth, then the sixth and part of the seventh for the Trojans. He only allowed on runner on base via a walk, while striking out three in the process. Jordan Mathers and Chris Sorce came out of the bullpen to finish off the seventh for Troy, with Sorce recording four consecutive batters to end the seventh and eighth innings.
Sorce gave way to closer Josh Storm with runners at first and second in the top of the ninth inning, with the Trojans holding onto a four-run lead with just one out. The senior, the single-season saves leader from a season ago, came in to face the top of the order for Alabama. Storm promptly struck out Rutledge swinging on four pitches, before inducing a game-ending fly ball by Taylor Dugas for his second save of the season.
The Trojans return to action Wednesday night against Samford University at Riddle-Pace Field.