for CBI Sun Belt preview
click here for coaches'
Sun Belt preseason poll
click here for coaches' preseason All-Sun
Ray of light from the mound at
By Andrew Krause
Ray’s 2011 season was remarkable.
“We went into each Friday night game knowing we
had a great chance to win,” said long-time Troy head coach Bobby
And win they did. As a junior last season, the
Hoover, Ala. native went undefeated (12-0 in 16 starts) as the
Troy Trojans’ ace. Furthermore, Ray was named the Sun Belt
Conference Pitcher of the Year and was selected as a Third Team
All-American by ABCA/Rawlings and Second Team All-American by
Although Ray’s dominance in 2011 may have
surprised some unfamiliar with the Troy program, he had shown
flashes of brilliance for years both on the diamond and
gridiron. An all-around great athlete, Ray starred at
quarterback for national powerhouse Hoover High School, but slid
under the radar on the diamond.
“He was overlooked by other schools because he
spent much of his summers preparing for football,” Pierce said.
“He had a smaller frame, but I liked what I saw. He had a lot of
poise, a quick arm, and well above-average command for somebody
Ray quickly established himself on the mound and
was Troy’s Friday night starter by the third week in his
“I was the only freshman in my recruiting class.
I came in with a number of JUCO players, so I really had to grow
up and mature quickly.”
In the end, his football pedigree may have helped
Ray transition into the intense college baseball environment.
“I really think that his experiences as a
quarterback at Hoover helped him to remain poised on Friday
nights as a true freshman,” Pierce said. Ray performed admirably
as his 7-3 record and 4.60 ERA earned him Sun Belt
a sophomore Ray went 8-4 in 16 starts, but both he and Coach
Pierce were not happy with his performance (5.34 ERA).
“I was average. I just couldn’t seem to get
things clicking,” Ray said.
Pierce added, “His sophomore year was not quite
what we had hoped, but he came back as different guy after his
summer in the Cape Cod League.”
While Ray struggled during the NCAA season, he
put together a very solid summer for the Hyannis Harbor Hawks
and was also the winning pitcher for the Cape Cod League
All-Star Game. Pierce attributes Ray’s success to his work
“Tyler always worked hard, but when he went up
there he saw guys like (former UCLA star Trevor) Bauer working
out, he came back and took it to the next level.”
Clearly, Ray’s vigorous work ethic paid huge
dividends in 2011.
While Ray is not an overpowering type of pitcher,
he offers four quality pitches in his fastball (89-92 mph),
slider, curve, and changeup.
“He has the ability to make changes within a game
and he can throw his four pitches in any count and in any
situation,” said his pitching coach Brad Phillips.
Although his specific game plan may vary with
different line-ups, Ray stays consistently aggressive.
“I take a lot of pride in making people earn it.
I do not have the best stuff in the league, but I don’t want to
give anything away.”
His strong command (only allowed 16 walks in his
116.2 IP) and aggressive approach allowed him to work deep into
games as he finished the year with three complete games and
averaged 7.1 innings per start, an invaluable yet often
overlooked quality in starting pitchers.
“When you’re getting 7-plus innings every single
Friday, it really clears up things for the weekend and helps out
the bullpen and the entire team,” Phillips said.
by Ray’s stellar Friday night performances, the Trojans enjoyed
a fine season going 43-19, winning the Sun Belt Conference
Championship and advancing to the Nashville Regional before
being eliminated after losses to Vanderbilt and Belmont.
So where does Ray go from here? The expectations
are higher than ever, even for a former Hoover High QB, as Ray
was recently selected as a Preseason First Team All American by
the NCBWA. While the entire Trojan community would undoubtedly
embrace another undefeated season from their ace, his head coach
refuses to speak about any specific numbers.
“I don’t have any real expectations for Tyler
this year,” Pierce said. “I just want him to prepare physically,
mentally, and emotionally for each game. If he does that he will
do just fine.”
Likewise, Phillips added: “He’s made up of all
the right things…He’s consistent, competitive, and has a
business-like approach. All I’ve done is basically stay out of
Clearly, those close to the program are quite
comfortable that similar results are on the horizon and given
how well Ray has performed and developed over his career, one
would be hard-pressed to disagree.
(photos courtesy of Troy
Media Relations Office)