May 20, 2011 at 11:24 PM CDT - Updated June 24 at 3:27 AM
MOBILE – Troy needed ninth inning heroics to tie the game, but the comeback was upstaged by a walk-off home run from South Alabama's Brad Hook for a 9-8 Jaguars win on Thursday night in Sun Belt play.
Hook drove a full-count pitch from Troy reliever Nate Hill deep into the night over the right field fence to give the Jaguars the victory. The loss was the first for Troy in a series opener this season. It had been 13-0.
The loss combined with a win by FIU drops the Trojans (38-16, 19-9) into second place. Troy is a half game behind the Golden Panthers with two games left.
The Trojans battled back from an 8-4 deficit after six innings, first with a pinch-hit two-run home run by junior Boone Shear in the seventh, then a two-run double from first baseman Logan Pierce in the top of the ninth.
In the ninth, Todd McRae walked after Drew Prichard struck out to lead off the inning. Shear was hit by a pitch and pinch-runner Cass Abercombie moved to second base. Pierce was the third batter of the inning and his double to deep in the left-centerfield alley drove home the tying pair to knot the game at eight.
Pierce moved to third on a fielder's choice by Tyson Workman two batters later, but a fly out by Tyler Hannah ended the inning.
Shear got the comeback started with his two-run homer in the seventh. He pinch hit for Blake Martz and took the first pitch he saw from Garrett Harris. The round tripper also scored McRae, who had walked one batter earlier. The blast cut the deficit to 8-6 at the end of seven innings.
There was scoring early and often in a game that had been billed as a match-up between two of the top arms in the Sun Belt Conference. Troy scored a run in the first, then two in the third and another run in the fourth, while the Jaguars put up single runs in the first three innings and then a four-spot in the fourth.
The four-run inning three hits for South Alabama (29-24, 15-13) and a pair of Trojan errors. The big play was a catcher's interference call on McRae that would have been the third out, but instead sent Jeff DeBlieux to first base and on the next pitch, Jake Overstreet double to center to score two runs. The next batter, Brent Tanner, recorded another double scoring Overstreet to tack on three runs after the inning could have ended.
For the second straight week, Tyler Ray was not able to record his 12th victory. The junior from Hoover took a no decision after allowing season highs for hits (10) and runs (8). He pitched 6.1 innings and walked a pair.
Hill took the loss, his first of the season, and dropped to 4-1. Collin Blankenship (3-4) was the winner for South Alabama.
Pierce led the Trojans at the plate with a 3-for-4 night with a pair of RBI. T.J. Rivera and Prichard also had RBI.
Troy and South Alabama will play the second game of the series on Friday at 6 pm. Freshman Jimmy Hodgskin will toe the rubber for the Trojans.