TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – No. 26 Troy used a five-run fourth inning and a solid start from Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Year Shane McCain to defeat Alabama 5-2 in the opening game of the Tallahassee Regional Friday afternoon at Dick Howser Stadium.
The third-seeded Trojans (41-18) now await the winner of Friday night’s game between top-seeded Florida State and fourth-seeded Savannah State in a winner’s bracket game on Saturday at 4 p.m. Second-seeded Alabama will face the loser of that contest in an elimination game on Saturday at 11 a.m.
Trae Santos hit his 17th home run of the season following a Logan Pierce double and Danny Collins walk to put Troy on the board in the fourth. It was Santos’ first true opposite-field home run this season (hit two to left-center field).
The double was Pierce’s 24th of the season to tie him with Collins for the team lead in the category. It was also the 55th double of his career to pull him within one of the all-time mark in Troy history. Santos now has 69 RBIs on the year, which is just four shy of tying Tom King for the Troy single-season record.
Josh McDorman, who finished 2-for-3, kept the pressure on with a single to left-center and Justin Hancock reached on the game’s only error. Garrett Pitts pushed both runners into scoring position with his fourth sacrifice bunt of the season and Ali Knowles cashed in with a two-run single back up the middle.
“We had the big inning and (Ali and Trae) had a big part of that, as they have all year long,” Troy head coach Bobby Pierce said. “Today’s game was a lot like we’ve seen for much of the year starting with Shane’s outing on the mound. Sure he would have liked to have gotten a little deeper in the game, but when it got to the spot we were at Nate Hill’s specialty – left-on-left.”
The offensive outburst in the fourth inning marked the 27th time this season that the Trojans have scored five or more runs in an inning.
McCain improved to 9-1 after limiting the Crimson Tide (34-27) to just two runs on seven hits over 6.2 innings. The junior southpaw struck out six Alabama batters and issued just one free pass.
“My approach is when you have guys who can cover ground like Ali, I just throw strikes and get after them especially when I got that four-run lead,” McCain said. “It was just about throwing strikes and our pitching coach (Brad Phillips) does a great job of mixing them up – just keeping the ball down and locating. The things pitchers should do.”
Nate Hill took over with two on and two away in the seventh and struck out Georgie Salem to end the frame. Hill struck out a pair over his two innings of work and has now fanned 87 batters in 70.1 innings this season.
Troy’s three pitchers combined to allow Alabama just two at-bats with runners in scoring position the entire game and the Crimson Tide went 0-for-2 in those at-bats.
Alabama worked a pair of walks from Hill in the ninth inning before Tanner Hicks came out of the bullpen and got Salem to fly out to Knowles in center field for his second save of the year.
Troy improves to 8-10 all-time in the NCAA Tournament as a Division I member and 1-3 against Alabama; Troy and Alabama have split the last 10 meetings between the two schools. The victory is Troy’s second straight opening game win the NCAA Tournament; the Trojans defeated Oklahoma State 9-2 in the opener of the Nashville Regional in 2011.