The memories of an improbable Saturday in Greenville, S.C. will last a lifetime for the members of the Samford baseball program.
The aches and pains won't last that long, but they are still hanging around, at least a little bit, a couple of days later. Not even the joy of hearing your team called in the NCAA Baseball Tournament pairings show erased all of those aches.
"For the most part, you're really focused on yourself," said Samford head coach Tony David, whose team is headed to the Auburn Regional with a first-round game against Southern Miss. "Staying sharp and trying to be as healthy as we possibly can be. That's a grind on Saturday. Kaden (Dreier) caught every inning of it. Kaden is feeling it a little bit still. We've got several guys that are. We didn't throw much in practice this morning, to just let their bodies and their minds recuperate as much as possible."
Dreier caught 27 innings this past Saturday when the Bulldogs beat UNC Greensboro in a Southern Conference Tournament elimination game and a pair of championship-round victories over Wofford. The 6-foot-2, 227-pound senior from Brentwood, Tenn. was on the field for each of the Samford pitchers' 420 pitches in a span of just less than 10 hours.
"I was thinking about beforehand," said Dreier, who played in 48 games with 44 starts this season. "I don't even think it's possible that they can schedule three games in a row like that. And then it happened. The day was just kind of a blur."
The fatigue from a long day was swept away by the adrenaline and euphoria of winning on Saturday.
"We just kept winning, and the innings just kept coming," Dreier said. "I didn't really notice it until, I think, probably the next morning. I hopped on the bus to head back home, and I was like, 'I'm a little sore.'"
Now, it's time to turn the page for a Samford team that is 36-23 overall and SoCon regular season and tournament champs. The Bulldogs open up with Sun Belt Conference Tournament champion Southern Miss (41-19) on Friday at 1 p.m. CT with Auburn (34-21) playing Penn (32-14) at 6 p.m. CT in the other first-round game.
"We're excited about the opportunity to be playing in the postseason," David said. "We kind of feel like we've set that standard here, especially over the last five or six years to where any season we play, if we don't get into this part of postseason, we feel like it's a little bit disappointing. Our guys are excited about it, and it's a great field. Obviously, when you get to this point of things, anybody you play is going to be a really good baseball team, so we are looking forward to going down there."
*Troy is making its first NCAA Baseball Tournament appearance since 2018. The Trojans take on No. 2 seed Boston College (35-18) in the Tuscaloosa Regional on Friday at 2 p.m., with No. 1 seed Alabama (40-19) playing Nicholls State (34-22) at 6.
The Trojans, who are making their eighth trip to the Division I baseball tournament, is 39-20 overall. They finished third in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament and are one of four teams from the conference to make the NCAA field.
Troy pitchers are fifth in the nation in strikeouts (610), and Trojan hitters are 14th in the nation with 102 home runs. Shane Lewis has a program record of 27 home runs, which is third in the nation.
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