TROY, Ala. - Two of the hottest teams in the Sun Belt Conference will meet for a three-game series this weekend at Riddle-Pace Field as in-state rivals Troy and South Alabama square off to open league play.
The Trojans (11-4) and the Jaguars (15-3) both enter the weekend having won five of their last six games and both are receiving votes in the national polls. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and for 1 p.m. on Sunday.
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 at TroyTrojans.com. Fans can watch the games live via Trojans All-Access and find live stats for the games at TroyTrojans.com
Troy enters the series with the best one-two offensive punch in the Sun Belt with right fielder Danny Collins and third baseman Logan Pierce. Collins leads the league batting at a .471 clip while Pierce is second in the conference batting .459; Pierce is batting .647 (11-of-17) over Troy's past four games.
Not to be forgotten in the mix is leadoff hitter Tyler Vaughn. The junior shortstop is sixth in the league batting at a .368 clip while leading the Sun Belt with 23 runs scored. Outfielder Josh McDorman carries a streak of three straight games with multiple hits into the series with the Jaguars.
The Trojans have played extremely well at Riddle-Pace Field this season and over their history. Troy is 10-2 at home this season and has won 63 of its past 82 games at Riddle-Pace Field; the Trojans have won 11 of their past 12 Sun Belt Conference home series.
The series will feature two of the top offensive and defensive teams in the Sun Belt. Troy comes into the weekend leading the league with a .314 batting average while South Alabama is fourth batting at a .291 clip. The Trojans are second in the Sun Belt with a .977 fielding percentage and the Jaguars are a tick behind in third with a .973 fielding percentage.
Friday night's series opener will feature a pair of former junior college teammates on the mound. Troy's Tanner Hicks (3-0, 4.05) and South Alabama's Jacob Noble (3-0, 1.57) were the number one and two starters at Central Alabama Community College last year.
Will Starling (3-1, 5.82) will make his second straight Saturday start for the Trojans after a solid outing last weekend against Hartford. The junior right-hander struck out eight batters, didn't allow a run and scattered three hits over five innings. The Jaguars will counter with Brandon Boyles (0-1, 3.86) who will be making just his second start of the year after moving into the rotation from the bullpen last weekend.
Reigning Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Week Shane McCain (3-0, 3.32) will close out the series on the mound for the Trojans. McCain struck out a career-high nine batters and held Southeastern Louisiana to just three hits and no walks over seven innings last Sunday. He and Matthew Howard combined to retire 23 of the final 24 Lion batters in the game, including the final 16 in a row. Jarron Cito (0-1, 6.06) will get the call for South Alabama in the finale.
Dustin Dalken (.366), Bud Collura (.347) and Cole Billingsley (.338) lead the South Alabama offense that is averaging 7.8 runs per game.