By Josh Brown
TROY — Troy reliever Matt Bigley couldn’t shut the door in the top of the seventh. So he did it in the bottom of the seventh instead.
And in the process, he gave the Trojan baseball team a measure of payback over the team that ended its season last year — as well as a new milestone for the team’s coach.
Troy built a lead as big as 8-3 after three innings over visiting Springboro Thursday, but the Panthers rallied and tied the score in the top of the seventh inning. But Cole Brogan led off the Troy half of the seventh with a triple and Bigley cashed him in with a walkoff RBI single three batters later, giving the Trojans (6-3) a thrilling 9-8 victory over Springboro at Market Street Field.
Not only was it Troy’s fourth straight win, but it was also the 201st for Troy coach Ty Welker, who became the program’s all-time winningest coach. After scoring his 200th win in a 13-3 run-rule win by the Trojans over Fairborn Wednesday to tie former coach, the late Fred McMullen, Welker took the top spot with Thursday’s win. After the game against Springboro, he was presented with a red bat commemorating his 200th win by his players and coaching staff.
“It was very nice, and I’m honored, but you don’t get into coaching to do this,” Welker said. “It’s about the guys, the players, the former players like Heath Murray and my assistants who came back to the program — it’s not about me. It’s about them all.”
Scoring a win against the Panthers (7-2) was more than enough to celebrate, too. Springboro beat Troy 2-0 early in the season last year, then the Panthers defeated the Trojans 6-3 in the sectional final to eliminate Troy from postseason play. The last win for Troy against Springboro before Thursday came in 2015, an 8-4 win.
“That is a good baseball team,” Welker said. “They came in at 7-1, and when we were up 8-3, I knew that the game wasn’t over by any stretch. We had more chances but didn’t take advantage of some opportunities throughout the game. It’s still a learning process.”
One thing Troy learned early Thursday was that starting pitcher Braeden Snider could work his way out of trouble.
Springboro loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the first, but Snider, a junior, got a strikeout, a lineout to Brandon Emery at second and another strikeout to get out of the inning unscathed. In 4 2-3 innings of work, Snider walked five and gave up six hits and four runs while striking out three to earn the win.
“Braeden Snider, what an outing for his first outing of the year,” Welker said. “He came out, he did his job and he gave everything he had. Then Tomo (Nakayama) came in and got some tough outs in relief, Bigley got some tough outs. All three of the guys we put on the mound today went out there and competed, and that’s all you can ask of someone.”
Jake Daniel and Keiran Williams staked Troy out to an early lead in dramatic fashion, as well, hitting back-to-back home runs with two outs in the bottom of the first. Daniel first crushed a pitch that would have been a homer had it stayed fair, but then on the next pitch he ripped a line drive that sailed over the left-center fence in a hurry to give Troy a 1-0 lead. Then, on a 2-2 count, Williams hit an absolute bomb that carried well beyond the fence in left to make it 2-0.
“Jake hit a nice shot, Keiran hit a nice shot,” Welker said. “Jake’s maybe was helped by the wind a little, but he needed that. He’s been struggling a little lately, so that was good to see. And Keiran’s, that would have been out no matter what the wind was doing.”
Troy added four more runs in the second to take a 6-0 lead. The leadoff batter reached on an error but was thrown out straying too far past third on a double by Bigley. Tyler Brandenburg singled to put runners on the corners, and Emery ripped an RBI single that skipped past the left fielder to put runners on second and third. Daniel then ripped a two-run single past the third baseman and eventually scored himself on a wild pitch to make it a six-run game.
Springboro finally did some damage in the third with an RBI triple by Cameron Rountree, an RBI double by Tyler Kean and a run-scoring flyout by Brayden Miracle, but the Trojans answered with two more in the bottom of the inning on a two-run single by Brandenburg that made the score 8-3.
The Panthers cut the lead to 8-4 after five on an RBI groundout by Kean, then a leadoff homer by Calvin Walters and an RBI single by Luke Donaghy made the score 8-6 after six. And in the top of the seventh, Bigley allowed an RBI single by Bryce Haberthier, and the game-tying run scored on a wild pitch to even things up at 8-8 going into the home half of the seventh.
But Brogan took the edge off by driving a leadoff triple to the gap in right-center, Chase Weaver reached on an error and Ethan West reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases with no outs for Bigley, who quickly redeemed himself by planting a 1-2 pitch in the outfield for the game-winning RBI single.
“I’m sure Matt would’ve rather ended the game on the mound — that’s just the kind of competitor he is,” Welker said “But that’s outstanding that he was able to do that for us at the plate. And Brogan leading off with a triple, that was big, too. It’s just a different guy stepping up for us every inning, really. The guys are playing so well right now.”
Daniel finished 2 for 3 with a homer and three RBIs, Brandenburg finished 2 for 4 with a double and two RBIs, Emery was 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI, Bigley was 2 for 2 with a double and an RBI and Williams was 1 for 2 with a homer and an RBI.
The Trojans travel to Xenia Friday for a GWOC American League crossover matchup before a big North Division series against defending division champion Butler, beginning at Butler on Monday.
“We’ve got a couple big games against Butler next week, but first up we’ve got Xenia tomorrow,” Welker said. “That’s a division game, too, being a league crossover game. We can’t look past that one.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.