Troy, AL- The duo of Adam Bryant and T.J. Rivera has been making big plays and getting big hits for the Trojans all year, and they teamed up again on Saturday to deliver as Troy downed Western Kentucky 5-4 in 10 innings.
Bryant led off the 10th inning with a double off the wall in left, moved up to third on a sacrifice bunt by Miles Hoyle and scored on a sharp single through a drawn in WKU infield by Rivera to lift the Trojans to their first extra-inning win of the 2010 season.
The Trojans improved to 22-20 overall and 9-11 in Sun Belt Conference play while WKU falls to 31-15 and 12-8 in league play.
"We needed a win like this against a quality opponent for quite some time and it took a hard, grinding effort to get it done," Troy coach Bobby Pierce said. "Adam Bryant was really good for us all day and then T.J. got the big hit at the end to ice the game. That gives us a chance to win the series tomorrow against a well-coached and very good WKU team."
Bryant had to dig his way out of a hole to get the 10th inning started for the Trojans. He quickly fell behind in the count before getting a pitch to handle.
"It wasn't the way I wanted to start in the 10th, down 0-2, because then it is battle time," Bryant said. "I was just trying to put something in play at that point and hope for something to go your way. They had been throwing me changeups all weekend but they left a breaking ball up and I was able to get a hold of it."
After Hoyle got Bryant to third base, Rivera never expected to see a pitch to hit with first and second base open.
"Coach told me to wait for a good pitch that they might walk me, but I got a first pitch fastball, and that is what I was looking for," Rivera said. "This is a big win for us because we have been struggling throughout the season. Hopefully this win will get us going."
The clutch hitting by the Troy juniors in the 10th inning made a winner of Trojans junior closer Chase Whitley (4-2), who turned in his longest outing of the year. Whitley allowed two runs on three hits over 5.2 innings of work.
"Tyler (Ray) gave us a good, quality effort on the mound, probably the best I have seen him this year," Pierce said. "He ran into some trouble in the fifth inning and then Chase came in and pitched like he has all year. I thought Tyler was sailing pretty easily and that we wouldn't have to go to Chase so early, but then things went south for him. His fastball was down and had better life than I have seen and he threw two or three of the best breaking balls he has thrown all year."
Freshman Taylor Haydel (2-2) took the loss for the Hilltoppers. He worked his way out of trouble after hitting two batters in the ninth, but gave up the leadoff double to Bryant in the 10th. Another freshman, left-hander Tanner Perkins, gave up the game-winning hit to Rivera.
The Trojans jumped out to an early lead on the Hilltoppers, scoring three times in the second inning off WKU starter Shane Cameron. Chad Watson singled in a run, another scored on a wild pitch and the third on a sacrifice fly by Bryant.
Cameron worked eight innings for WKU, allowing four runs on eight hits with six strikeouts. Ray cruised through the first four innings of the game, retiring 13 of the first 14 hitters he faced. In the fifth he gave up a pair of singles and walked two before giving way to Whitley. The outing didn't start well for him, walking the first batter he faced to force in a run, but he got an inning-ending double play to avoid further damage and escape with Troy holding a 3-2 lead.
Bryant pushed the Troy lead to 4-2 in the sixth when he blasted a two-out homer, but Logan Robbins knotted the game in the seventh when he hit a two-run bomb for the Hilltoppers.
Whitley retired nine of the last 11 WKU hitters following the homer, including the last seven in a row to end the game.
For Troy, Bryant led the way with three hits. Todd McRae continued to swing a hot bat with two hits in the game. Whitley was hitless for the Trojans, snapping a 12-game hit streak.
Casey Dykes and Robbins had two hits each to lead WKU.
The Trojans and Hilltoppers will play the deciding game of the weekend series on Sunday with the first pitch scheduled for 1 p.m. Junior Drew Hull (2-5, 7.66) will take the mound for Troy and WKU will counter with junior Brian Edelen (4-0, 3.16)
"Chase will not be available for us tomorrow, but Thomas Austin, Cass Abercrombie, Tim Wheeler, a lot of guys will be available behind Drew, but they will certainly have to pitch well to this team," Pierce said. "We have to have a great pitching performance and will probably have to score more than four or five runs to have a chance to win.
"We have had problems this year trying to come back after a big win and build some momentum, but maybe this will be the one that gets things going for us."