By Josh Brown
TROY — Both teams had some opening-day jitters to shake off in the first inning.
And while both Troy and Milton-Union did a good job of settling down, the Bulldogs cashed in better before then.
Milton-Union (1-0) strung together four consecutive first-inning singles and piled up half of their 10 hits in the inning, jumping out to a 4-0 lead — which proved to be plenty for starter Claire Fetters, who overpowered the Troy lineup in a 5-2 Bulldog victory Tuesday at Market Street Diamond in Troy.
Fetters allowed six hits in the game — with only two of them being truly solid rips to the outfield. She struck out six and walked none, and only one of the runs she gave up was earned.
“That’s the way she’s capable of pitching every time out,” Milton-Union coach Curt Schaefer said. “Last year she didn’t come out as strong. She had dealt with some arm injuries that previous offseason and wasn’t able to throw in the summer or fall heading into that year. But she’s focused now.
“She wants the ball every day. If she throws like this every time out, we could contend for a league title and make a nice run in the tournament.”
Early on, Fetters worked in a changeup with her fastball — but after the second or third inning, she ditched it in favor of what was working more often, the power game. She set down nine straight hitters from the third to sixth inning, giving up a pair of singles in the sixth but finishing by retiring the final four batters she faced.
“We played four scrimmages this year, and our offense has done a good job of adjusting to a lot of different kinds of pitchers. Today, she kept the ball low, and we struggled to adjust,” Troy coach Megan Campbell said. “She kept it at the knees and the umpire was giving it to her. If you can keep the ball there and he gives it to you, you don’t need to change what you’re doing.”
Troy’s Mackenzie Vernon had one rough inning, giving up five hits and four runs in the first inning. After that, though, the Bulldogs only had multiple hits in one inning, and Vernon finished with four strikeouts and no walks.
That first inning, though, was enough for the Bulldogs.
After Vernon struck out the first hitter, Anna Wilson blooped in a single. Ashley Smith hit a sharp single to left, and Chloe Smith loaded the bases with a blooper to center. Britney Courtright then drove in two runs with a single to put the Bulldogs on the board. Troy got a force at second base for the second out of the inning, leaving runners on first and third, and Katie Courtright brought both runs in with another single to put the Bulldogs up 4-0 after half an inning.
“It was the first real game for both of us,” Campbell said. “Scrimmages are scrimmages, but when you get to the first game, there was some nerves to work through, I think, and some unneeded pressure that the girls put on themselves. But Mackenzie held it down after that first inning. Mackenzie did a fantastic job of trying to find the zone and figure out what their hitters liked or didn’t like.”
Troy was able to fight back in the bottom of the first with some slick baserunning. After Alex Wilt reached on a two-out bloop single, Allison Pierce followed with a single of her own — and Wilt scored all the way from first. Once the Bulldogs realized what was happening, they tried to throw home, but the throw got away and Pierce ended up on third. An errant throw to first on the next hitter allowed Pierce to score, cutting Milton-Union’s lead in half.
“Alex is a very quick girl, and she reads the ball well,” Campbell said. “And Allison had some heads-up baserunning, too. Once they threw home, she was standing on third base.”
“We gave them that second run in the first inning,” Schaefer said. “But no runs would have scored if maybe our outfield wasn’t playing too far back. No one should score from first if the ball is hit in front of an outfielder.”
Milton-Union got one back in the third with some tricky baserunning to even things up on that front, though. Chloe Smith and Britney Courtright singled to start the inning, and Fetters hit a liner to third that appeared to hit the ground before being caught. The Trojans still got a force at second, but they still tossed it to each base just in case. The umpires discussed it and decided not to award a triple play. A double steal by the Bulldogs made the score 5-2.
“That’s how that play is supposed to work,” Schaefer said. “Hitting-wise today, we did leave a lot of runners on. Our top of the order has got to do a better job. We’re getting them on, which is good, but the girls need to know that they’ve got to score every opportunity they get.”
The Bulldogs open Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division play today against Madison, while Troy leaves for Gatlinburg for a tournament which kicks off Friday.
MU401 000 0 — 5 10 2
Troy200 000 0 — 2 6 2
Fetters and B. Courtright. Vernon and Kiser. WP — Fetters. LP — Vernon. 2B — Fetters. Records: Milton-Union 1-0, Troy 0-1.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 440-5251 or firstname.lastname@example.org, of follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.