By Josh Brown
TROY — Veteran softball coach Dan Cain has seen plenty during his career.
But the Troy Trojans’ first four games is a new one on him even.
Every game his Trojans have played to start the season — four of them at this point — has been decided by only one run. And three of those games have gone extra innings, with their last two games going nine: a 10-9 victory over Fairmont and a 5-4 loss to reigning Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division champion Greenville on Monday.
Right now Troy (2-2) is as close as it gets in every game.
“I’ve had years where we didn’t even have a single extra-inning game,” Cain said. “To have three of them in your first four games? That’s pretty unheard of. I’ve never had this many in a full season before.
“But it’s good. It puts the girls into pressure situations early on, and they’re doing well in them for the most part. They’re not getting nervous or putting pressure on themselves or overthinking things.”
By comparison, the Trojans had three extra-inning games all of last season, including a 2-1 loss to Greenville. They then played two extra-inning games in a row, falling to Tippecanoe 4-3 on May 8 and then defeating Franklin 7-6 on May 9 to begin a doubleheader sweep, which concluded with a 2-1 Troy win.
Troy’s total number of one-run games last season? A fairly high one — 11. In those games, the Trojans went 6-5 and finished the season 17-11. They also had a stretch of five one-run games in a row, losing 3-2 to Bradford and 3-2 to Russia, defeating Butler 9-8, falling to Butler 12-11 and defeating Wayne 6-5 in a stretch from April 18 to April 23.
In their first four games this year, the Trojans have had the lead going into the final inning in every one of them, beginning with a 5-4 loss at Wayne. The Warriors fought back late to tie the score, then won it in the eighth.
And against Tippecanoe — the only game the Trojans have played this year without going into extra innings — Troy led 9-5 going into the bottom of the sixth and 9-7 going into the seventh. The Red Devils loaded the bases and got one run home with only one out before Troy got a force out at the plate and a strikeout to end the game, 9-8.
The Trojans then took on Fairmont at home on March 31, but played the game as the away team as the Firebirds’ field was unplayable and the game was moved. Troy held a four-run lead going into the bottom of the seventh, but a series of errors and wild pitches allowed Fairmont to tie the score. In the end, a diving catch by freshman second baseman Josie Rohlfs prevented the Firebirds from winning the game then and there, forcing extra innings.
“Against Fairmont, we had the lead and let them back into the game,” Cain said. “Then Josie makes that catch. That’s a freshman, laying out fully horizontal to catch a line drive. If she doesn’t make that catch, that game’s over.”
Troy went on to win 10-9 in nine innings, scoring twice in the top of the ninth and then surviving another Fairmont rally to hold on.
Which led the Trojans to their biggest matchup of the year to that point — a game against Greenville on Monday.
The game was tied 1-1 after seven innings, then the Trojans took a 4-1 lead in the top of the ninth, leaving the bases loaded and a chance to add to their lead in the process. But the Green Wave answered in the bottom of the inning, hitting the ball harder than they had all game and rallying to defeat Troy 5-4.
“Greenville has been in big games. Their kids went out and executed,” Cain said. “Greenville hit the ball. But 5-4, that’s a good game. I’d still rather go out and win a game 1-0 in nine innings, because that meant your defense was solid. If we score four or five runs, the defense has got to be solid enough to win that game. That’s where I want to get these girls. But every game, we’re better than we were before.”
Instead of getting a rematch with the Wave this week, though, the Trojans will have to wait. The series finale was scheduled for Thursday but bumped to Friday by the rain — and then pushed back even farther to next week by Friday’s weather. The Trojans take on Trotwood Monday and Tuesday, and are possibly set to take on Greenville Wednesday.
“We had a good practice today, focused on our defense,” Cain said Friday. “We focused on hitting (Thursday), so we had some good, productive practices. Every day, it feels like we’re getting things done.”
And all of the extra-inning games have given the Trojans a chance to look at things they didn’t get to before the season began.
“We joked with the kids after the Greenville game, told them that we only got one scrimmage in before the season, so these extra-inning games are making up for that,” Cain said. “I’m starting to get a feel for these kids a little more and seeing where I can put them at.
“Take Camryn Moeller, for instance. We’re kind of locked in on her at third base now. She’s athletic and has a good arm, but she’d never really played it before. We kind of fell into using her there after we’d had a couple errors one game. We didn’t get a chance to see these things in scrimmages, but we’ve gotten more of a chance thanks to these extra innings.”
And the baptism by fire can only help the young Trojans, who saw seven starters graduate last season.
“I’m comfortable with where we’re at right now,” Cain said. “Every one of those games could have gone either way. We just need to carry all the things we do every day into every game and do the things there that we do in practice. Maybe down the road, playing in these games pays off for us. I’d just like us to come out and play to our capability, no matter who we’re playing.
“I’m hoping people see the difference every time we go out there. The kids are starting to know we could have something special if we play together as a team.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.