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Golden Tiger student-athlete alums show out in NCAA action

NCAA Division 1 baseball teams all over the country recently took part in conference tournaments, and four former Russellville Golden Tigers saw action on the diamond.

The Auburn University Tigers participated in the SEC Tournament at the Hoover Met with sophomores Judd Ward and Cody Greenhill playing key roles. In Conway, S.C., the Sun Belt Conference Tournament took place with Reed Smith getting the starting nod at second base for the Troy Trojans. Meanwhile, Western Kentucky University was at MGM Park in Biloxi, Miss., playing in the Conference USA Tournament, and senior pitcher Jacob Green saw action on the mound.

The SEC Tournament began May 21, and Auburn defeated Tennessee 5-3. Ward was the star of the game with a 2-4 performance. His RBI bunt single in the game’s fifth inning put the Tigers up 3-2. Then, in the seventh inning, Ward smacked a two-run home run over the right field wall to put his team up 5-2.

Greenhill came on in the ninth inning and finished off his 10th save of the season, allowing no hits or runs to move Auburn into the next round.

The following afternoon saw Auburn take on No. 1 seed Vanderbilt. The Commodores, who eventually won the SEC Tournament, took the win in dominating fashion over AU by an 11-1 score.

Thursday the Auburn Tigers were facing elimination in the tourney, and they took on the LSU Tigers. The game was a wild one, with LSU scoring two runs on a wild pitch and a throwing error on one play in the bottom of the ninth inning for a 4-3 victory.

Leftfielder Ward went 3-for-5 in the game with a double and an RBI. His two-base hit in the seventh inning put the team up 2-1 at the time. For the tournament, he was an impressive 5-for-13 with a home run and four RBIs.

This season, Ward is batting .281 with four home runs and 30 RBIs, with an OPS of .792.

Greenhill has a 3.24 ERA in relief for the Tigers. The right-hander has a 2-3 record, with 10 saves over the course of 50 innings of work on the mound so far this year.

Auburn (33-25) went on to compete in the Atlanta Regional hosted by Georgia Tech in the NCAA Tournament starting May 31, playing Coastal Carolina in the first regional game at Russ Chandler Stadium, with the host Yellow Jackets taking on Florida A&M – the winner of each regional moving on to the Super Regionals the following weekend.

Auburn and Georgia Tech played twice this season, with the Yellow Jackets winning at Auburn April 2 by a 9-3 score and by an 11-6 total in Atlanta April 16.

The 2019 Sun Belt Tournament featured four Troy University games. May 22 the Trojans faced off against Little Rock in Conway at the home of Coastal Carolina near Myrtle Beach, S.C. Sophomore Smith went 2-for-4 in a game one, 6-5 loss. The former Golden Tiger had a double and a stolen base for Troy.

The Trojans took down the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns in game two May 23 by a 10-7 score. Smith picked up an RBI on a fielder’s choice, and he also scored a run to help the cause.

A rematch with Little Rock went Troy’s way by a 5-4 tally, but then the Trojans (31-29) saw their season come to an end with a loss to Georgia Southern.

Smith hit .232 this season and had four home runs, including a grand slam during a win at Alabama April 2. He had 16 RBIs this year and posted a .977 fielding percentage.

Green and his WKU teammates won their first game of the Conference USA Tournament over Old Dominion. The Hilltoppers took game one 7-4, and Green pitched an inning of relief. The 2015 RHS graduate allowed no hits or runs in the frame, and he struck out two.

WKU dropped game two to Florida Atlantic by a 6-1 score and then fell to UTSA by a 15-8 final.

Western Kentucky finished the season with a 26-29-1 record, and Green had a relief appearance in the Hilltoppers’ final game of the year, working a third of an inning.

For the season, Green had a 3-2 record with a 7.09 ERA. He had 23 appearances, pitched 33 innings and picked up a save. Opponents batted .256 against the 6-foot-3, 205-pound senior right-hander.