TROY, Ala. – Following the opening weekend of Sun Belt Conference play, many predicted that the Sun Belt title would be decided the final weekend of the season at Stanky Field in Mobile, Ala. That is just what will happen, as the in-state rivals Troy and South Alabama will play a three-game set with the league title hanging in the balance.
First pitch between the Trojans and Jaguars is set for 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Troy (35-17, 18-9 Sun Belt) enters the series just a game behind South Alabama (39-14, 19-8) in the league standings. A series victory by the Trojans would split the regular season title between the two schools, while a Troy sweep would mean an outright title for the Trojans.
South Alabama visited Troy to open Sun Belt play back in March and the two teams played a pair of one-run games and a two-run contest; the Jaguars escaped Troy with the series victory thanks to a six-run comeback over the final two innings in the series opener.
The Trojans head to Mobile with wins in 13 of their last 17 games and victories in four straight Sun Belt Conference series. The Jaguars have won 12 of their last 14 games heading into the weekend with six straight Sun Belt series victories.
Troy has not yet announced its pitching plans for the weekend series. Southpaw Shane McCain leads the Sun Belt in victories, strikeouts and fewest walks allowed while ranking second (by just .004) in opponent batting average (.214). Right-hander Tanner Hicks is third in the league in wins and has not dropped a decision in five-straight starts. Lefty Ryan Sorce is 6-1 on the year and leads all of Troy’s starters with a 3.40 ERA.
The Jaguars have decided to give sophomore left-hander James Traylor his third start of the season in the opener Thursday night. Traylor is 5-3 on the season with a 3.93 ERA but has only pitched 8.2 innings in Sun Belt action. Right-hander Matt Bell (6-0, 2.87) will make his sixth Sun Belt start of the year on Friday; the Jaguars are undecided on their starter in the finale.
The series will match two of the top three offenses and pitching staffs in the league. South Alabama will enter the weekend second in the Sun Belt with a team batting average of .303 and staff ERA of 4.06. Troy is right behind in third batting at a .299 clip as a team with a 4.09 ERA.
Senior third baseman Logan Pierce leads the Trojans batting .359 with 19 doubles, six home runs and 58 RBIs while Danny Collins leads the league with 23 doubles and Trae Santos has hit a league-leading 15 homer runs to go along with a league-high 62 RBIs. Santos, Collins and Pierce rank 1-2-3 in the league in RBIs.
Jordan Patterson paces the South Alabama offense with a .362 batting average, .496 on-base percentage, 21 doubles and 45 RBIs. Designated hitter Dustin Dalken leads the Jags with eight homers to go along with a .358 batting average.
All three games will be broadcast live on the Troy IMG Sports Network with local coverage on 94.7 FM in Troy and worldwide coverage online and on smartphones at TroyTrojans.com/showcase. Fans can watch the games live via Trojans All-Access and find live stats for the games at TroyTrojans.com