TROY, Ala. – Will Starling threw seven shutout innings and tied a career-high with eight strikeouts as Troy defeated Middle Tennessee 3-0 Saturday night at Riddle-Pace Field to clinch the Sun Belt Conference series; Troy will go for the sweep on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Starling (4-2) retired nine in a row over the middle innings and held the Blue Raiders to just three hits. Nate Hill worked the eighth and Matthew Howard the ninth to close out the game for the Trojans; the save was Howard’s fourth of the season. Starling ended five of his seven innings with a strikeout.
The shutout was the first by Troy over Middle Tennessee in the 45 meetings between the two schools. The Trojans have held their opponents to just a combined four runs of the past four games.
Tyler Vaughn provided the only run Troy (18-7, 5-3 Sun Belt) would need with a two-out single in the second. Josh McDorman doubled with one out and Ali Knowles followed with an infield single. Following a strikeout, Vaughn punched a single through the right side of the infield for the RBI.
Howard pushed the Troy lead out to 2-0 in the fifth with a sacrifice fly following a single by Danny Collins, a walk to Trae Santos and a passed ball. Logan Pierce capped the scoring with a monster home run over the 30-foot wall in right field in the seventh; the blast was his third of the year.
Starling had to work out of some early trouble in both the first and second innings. He walked the leadoff hitter and then hit the next batter to put two on to open the game. Starling rebounded with a double play and strikeout to end the frame. In the second, Middle Tennessee (16-13, 3-5) loaded the bases, but Starling struck out leadoff hitter Ryan Ford to avoid any damage.
Troy has now tossed shutouts in two of its last three Sun Belt Conference games for the first time since the Trojans joined the league in 2006. The Trojans will be going for their first sweep of the Blue Raiders since 2006.
Johnathan Frebis (3-3), who was the Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year last year, took the loss after he allowed two runs – one earned – over five innings; he walked four, allowed five hits and struck out five.