Since his arrival at Troy University in 2003, Bobby Pierce has presided over a period of unprecedented growth in the Trojan baseball program.
The success of the program on the field is obvious. In his 11 seasons the Trojans have captured four conference titles, have been to four NCAA Regionals, produced six consecutive seasons with a national award winner, had 14 All-Americans and has sent 27 players on to professional baseball.
In conference competition, the Trojans have produced 39 all-conference selections, including four players who earned Pitcher of the Year honors, two who earned Player of the Year, one who was named Newcomer of the Year and one named Freshman of the Year.
In terms of team results, the Trojans led the nation in runs scored in 2006, doubles in 2013 and have been in the top 10 nationally in home runs four times since Pierce has been in charge of the program. In the past nine years, the Trojans have set new team season records in 10 offensive and 10 pitching categories.
Along with the production on the diamond, the baseball program at Troy under Pierce has regularly been among the best-performing athletic programs at Troy University in the classroom. The program has posted a team GPA of better than 3.0 during many semesters and has almost 50 percent of the squad achieving that standard on a regular basis.
One of the highlights of Pierce’s tenure at Troy was the first team Academic All-America honor earned by Kevin Weidlich in 2007.
Another highlight of Pierce’s tenure as Troy’s head coach has been the dramatic facility improvements. Riddle-Pace Field has gone from being a very good college baseball facility when Pierce arrived to the point where it is now among the top venues in college baseball.
The completion of the Lott Baseball Complex, with a state-of-the-art locker room, coaching offices, covered practice areas and numerous other amenities give the Troy University baseball program a facility that is the equal of any in the nation. The addition of a new artificial playing surface, outfield wall with video replay capabilities and the top lighting in the nation give the Trojans a unique competitive advantage that will last for many years.
When Pierce first arrived on the Troy University campus in 2003, he had a plan for the future of the Trojans’ baseball program.
He knew about the history of the program – the national and conference championships – but he also knew about the struggles the program had endured since moving into the competitive world of Division I baseball.
But Pierce had a plan for growing the program that was tried and true. His plan had worked at Chipola College and at Alabama-Huntsville. In 2003, Pierce brought his plan for success to Troy and the results have been startling.
Pierce took over a struggling program that had endured three consecutive losing seasons and, in his first season, he led the Trojans to a surprising 27-27 record, including a 16-16 mark in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
In his second season Pierce’s Trojans made greater strides, perhaps surpassing expectations by making a run all the way to the title game of the A-Sun Tournament. That club opened the season with a seven-game win streak and added a 10-game streak during the middle of the campaign.
The 2004 Troy team also produced the program’s first Division I All-American. Junior closer Nate Moore earned first team honors while leading all of college baseball with a 1.25 earned run average. Those two accomplishments started a remarkable run for the Troy program that ran through the 2009 campaign.
Moore was also the first Trojan selected in the MLB First-Year Player Draft under Pierce, going in the fourth round to the Kansas City Royals. Since Moore’s selection in 2004, 14 more Trojans have had their names called in the MLB draft.
Most remarkable was the streak of six seasons, starting with Moore in 2004 and ending with Brett Henry in 2009, when the Troy program produced a national award winner. According to long-time NCAA staff members, the streak was unprecedented in college baseball history.
By the 2005 season, without Moore, there were doubts as to whether the Trojans would, or could, continue to improve. Those concerns were answered by a group of seniors who led Troy to a wire-to-wire run to the A-Sun title, earning two more players All-America recognition.
Adam Godwin ran his way into not only the Troy record book, but also the A-Sun and NCAA books with 84 stolen bases that season in earning league Player of the Year as well as All-America honors.
Three other seniors on that squad – pitchers Landon Brazell and Brent Adcock, along with catcher Henry Gutierrez – also earned all-conference honors that year, with Adcock earning conference Pitcher of the Year. For Pierce, the hardware was for Coach of the Year, his first such award at Troy.
In addition to the successes of 2005 on the field, the squad also performed well in the classroom, capturing the Fred B. Davis Award for having the highest team grade point average among all of the men’s sports teams at Troy University.
In 2006, Pierce had to find a way to replace the four departed seniors who made up the core of the A-Sun title team.
By all accounts, the move to the Sun Belt Conference was a big step up in competition for the Trojans. The league has several programs which are perennial NCAA Tournament teams and the competition on a daily basis throughout the league is intense. Surely, the experts thought, the best Troy could hope for in its first season would be a middle of the pack finish.
Well, that was not part of Pierce’s plan. His plan called for the Trojans to continue to make steady strides each season. Missing the NCAA Tournament in 2005 gave the returning players plenty of motivation as the squad entered a new league.
There were two unknown players who joined the Troy program for the move to the Sun Belt – Tom King and Mike Felix – and both had All-America seasons. The Trojans staggered to a 3-6 start and were struggling early in the season but, as if flipping a switch, the team’s fortunes changed. The Trojans won 23 of their next 27 games, and raced out to a 12-1 record in their first Sun Belt season.
By the time the season ended, Pierce had earned his second straight Coach of the Year Award and the Trojans had won the Sun Belt championship. King became a national phenomenon as he chased the all-time NCAA single season record for doubles. He fell one shy of the record, but led the nation with 35 two-base hits and with 117 total hits, joining Moore and Godwin as national leaders.
Despite a record that left little doubt about an NCAA Tournament invitation, the Trojans left no room for doubt by sweeping through the Sun Belt Tournament to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The 47 overall wins posted by the Trojans in 2006 were the most since making the move to Division I in 1994.
The Regional berth sent Pierce back to Tuscaloosa where he had been an All-SEC West Division player for Alabama in 1980-81 and also earned a spot on its all-century team. The Trojans posted a pair of wins over Southern Miss, the only team to have swept a three-game series from Troy during the season, but were unable to defeat the host team.
Both King and Felix were named to All-America teams and both juniors were selected high in the MLB draft. In addition to losing King and Felix, senior Jared Keel was also drafted, leaving three gaping holes in the Troy lineup heading into the 2007 season.
With a bullseye squarely on their backs, the 2007 campaign was full of challenges. Troy entered the Sun Belt Tournament expecting to need a strong showing to earn an NCAA bid but, even after winning just once in Mobile, the Trojans’ high RPI earned the team an at-large bid, marking a second straight NCAA Regional appearance.
Individually, Josh Dew earned All-America honors by leading all of college baseball with 13.4 strikeouts per nine innings. Remarkably, Dew struck out 41.4 percent of all the hitters he faced during the season. Dew, Clint Robinson and Clegg Snipes were all called in the MLB Draft following the season.
After four straight NCAA statistical championships, no one even considered the possibility of someone else stepping up in 2008. That was before outfielder Bryan Miller recorded seven doubles over a four-game stretch in March. That hot streak, however, paled in comparison to an 11-game run later in the season when Miller posted a .608 batting average with 10 doubles to put himself in position.
He finished the year with six doubles in his last five games to total 32 for the year. While his total wasn’t enough to win outright, his average of .55 doubles per game made him Troy’s fifth straight national champion under Pierce. He also joined the list of All-Americans to have played for Pierce at Troy.
In 2009, the Trojans faced a schedule chock full of some of the best teams in the nation. The club battled through some ups and downs, but closed the year as the third seed in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, which was played, for the first time, at Troy’s Riddle-Pace Field.
Following the season, two Trojans, pitchers Jason Walls and Chris Sorce, were selected in the MLB Amateur Draft and, for the sixth straight year, the Trojans produced a national award winner when senior third baseman Brett Henry was selected to the exclusive Rawlings Gold Glove Award team.
The 2010 Trojans, loaded with 13 seniors, were poised to produce another memorable season. After a slow start left the team with a 19-19 mark past the halfway point of the year, the team turned up the intensity to win 13 of the final 17 games of the regular season.
Seeded sixth in the Sun Belt Tournament, little was expected from the Trojans, but the team went to Murfreesboro on a mission and bounced host Middle Tennessee and Arkansas State before falling to FIU in the title game.
Junior shortstop Adam Bryant, although not awarded for his efforts with a Gold Glove, posted the best fielding percentage of any regular player at his position in addition to blasting 23 homers to earn All-America honors.
Chase Whitley continued Troy’s run of outstanding closers during the year and was selected in the 15th round of the MLB Draft by the New York Yankees.
The next chapter in the illustrious history of Trojan baseball was written in 2011 as Pierce led Troy to a 43-19 record and the program’s second Sun Belt title.
With 56 home runs departed from the 2010 squad, Bryant and junior college transfer Tyler Hannah took control of the Trojan offense. Hannah finished third in the NCAA in doubles with 27 and Bryant was right behind him with 26 two-baggers. Bryant also finished 16th in total bases, 19th in runs scored and 20th in hits.
On the mound, it was 2009 Sun Belt Freshman of the Year Tyler Ray who took the league and nation by storm. The junior right-hander finished the season with an unblemished 12-0 record and finished seventh in the NCAA in wins.
Following a 2-1 showing in the new round-robin Sun Belt Tournament, the Trojans earned an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. Troy defeated Oklahoma State in the opening game of the Nashville Regional.
Bryant was named the Sun Belt Co-Player of the Year, Ray was named Pitcher of the Year and Pierce took home Coach of the Year honors; Pierce was also named the ABCA South Central Region Coach of the Year. The trio of Bryant, Ray and Hannah continued the run of Trojan All-Americans and the Minnesota Twins selected Bryant in the ninth round of the MLB Draft.
Pierce had maybe his toughest coaching job in 2012 as his team was decimated by injuries. The Trojans persevered and won their final four Sun Belt Conference series of the season and five of the final six Sun Belt series of the year. Troy finished 2-1 in its pool at the Sun Belt Tournament to finish as the pool co-champion.
Pierce’s son Logan earned All-Sun Belt First Team honors at first base while relief pitchers Thomas Austin and Nate Hill had great seasons. Hill set the Troy single-season appearances record and Austin finished second in the league among relievers with a 2.80 ERA.
In 2013, the Trojans were primed for a bounce-back season following the first losing campaign in Pierce’s career at Troy. The team reeled off a 42-20 record and claimed a share of the Sun Belt Conference regular season title by taking two of three games from rival South Alabama on the road in the final series of the season. Troy won 13 of 15 games from mid-April to mid-May sweeping conference foes Arkansas-Little Rock and Florida International.
The Trojans earned an at-large bid to the Tallahassee Regional where the team defeated Alabama twice to end the Crimson Tide’s season. Florida State would ultimately beat Troy in the Regional Finals.
Following the season, Pierce’s son, Logan, was drafted in the 15th round of the MLB Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies. Trae Santos and Danny Collins were also selected in the draft while Brandon Brown was later signed as a free agent.
The Road To Troy
A Marianna, Fla., native, Pierce was no stranger to Troy when he arrived as head coach in 2003. He originally enrolled at Troy as a freshman in the fall of 1977 before transferring to South Florida Community College in January 1978. He played the 1979 season at Wallace Community College in Dothan and then signed with the University of Alabama in 1980. As a senior co-captain in 1981, Pierce set numerous school records as an All-SEC outfielder.
Pierce was honored after his playing career by being named to the Crimson Tide’s all-century team.
Following his graduation in 1982, the then 23-year-old became the youngest head coach in Florida junior college history at Chipola College. In his first season, the school finished 41-15 and won the Florida state junior college championship, helping him earn Panhandle Conference and Florida Junior College Coach of the Year honors.
Chipola won four Panhandle Conference championships, earned five state tournament berths, with one title, and won 40 or more games four times under Pierce. In addition, more than 75 percent of his players signed scholarships at four-year institutions, more than 95 percent of which eventually earned their degrees.
In seven seasons, Pierce’s squads at Chipola posted a 259-95 overall record.
After the 1989 season, Pierce returned to his alma mater as Alabama’s top assistant coach. In five years, he served as recruiting coordinator, coached the offense and outfielders, served as third base coach and coordinated the program’s summer camps.
During his stay, Pierce coached his first Division I All-American, outfielder Joe Vitiello, who went on to enjoy a seven-year career in the Major Leagues. He was one of 16 players from Alabama to advance into professional baseball during Pierce’s time there.
After five seasons as an assistant coach, Pierce was named the first head baseball coach in history at the University of Alabama-Huntsville. In a short time, Pierce established himself and the Charger baseball program among the best in the nation.
Pierce coached several all-Conference, all-Region and All-America players while at UAH and 10 players went on to have professional careers. Pierce served on the Division II All-America Committee in each of his last two years at UAH.
During his time in Huntsville, Pierce posted a 276-108 record in seven seasons. He guided the Chargers to the 2001 Gulf South Conference title and four NCAA regional tournament appearances after founding the program in 1995. His squads also won three GSC East Division crowns and advanced to the conference tournament championship game four times. He was named the GSC’s 2001 Coach of the Year after helping the Chargers finish 41-17 and earn a top 10 national ranking.
Pierce is married to the former Kay Walls of Chipley, Fla., a health teacher at Charles Henderson High School. The couple has three children – Lance (27), a Troy University graduate, Lauren (26) and Logan (24), a senior at Troy and a member of the Trojans baseball team.
In January 2010, Pierce was honored by his peers for his career of dedication to the sport of baseball with induction into the Alabama Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.