By Josh Brown
WEST MILTON — Troy’s Kearston Riley’s three-run homer in the seventh inning was certainly dramatic.
But Milton-Union’s Masey Gregg’s solo shot in the sixth proved to be the difference.
Gregg led off the bottom of the sixth with a home run to dead center — her first of the season for the Southwestern Buckeye League team leader in homers — to give the Bulldogs a six-run lead heading into the final inning. It proved to be big, too, as Riley’s three-run blast kick-started a five-run Trojan rally in the final inning, but freshman reliever Madison Jones got a strikeout with the winning runs in scoring position to preserve an 8-7 Milton-Union victory over Troy Wednesday in non-league play.
The Bulldogs (17-3) put together a four-run rally of their own in the fifth inning to seemingly break open the game, leading 7-2 after that, and went up by six after Gregg’s home run, needing only three outs to notch the win. But Troy (12-10) was far from done as both teams tuned up for the start of next week’s sectional tournament.
Ella Furlong led off the Troy seventh with in infield single off of reliever Mercedes Farmer — who came in for starter Olivia Brown, who pitched six innings of solid ball, scattering five hits and only allowing two unearned runs while striking out one — and Megan Malott followed with a single to bring up Riley, who ripped a shot off the top of the left-center fence and over for a three-run homer to cut the deficit to three at 8-5.
“That pumped us up. It was huge,” Troy coach Scott Beeler said. “Kearston’s been hitting the ball well all year, and she came in here and hit the ball when we needed her to. She’s been a solid leader all year, and she’s probably been our most consistent hitter that we have.”
Josie Rohlfs then followed with a double, and Schaefer went to the bullpen again to call in Jones.
“We’re just trying to get ready for the tournament like everyone else,” Milton-Union coach Curt Schaefer said. “You’ve got to see what everybody else can give you. With a six-run lead, I felt confident enough to make a lot of moves. Hopefully they’ll learn from their mistakes, what to do and what not to do, the next time they go out there.”
The hard-throwing freshman got a strikeout for the first out, but Paige Nadolny walked and Cierra Ulrich hit an RBI single, taking an extra base on an errant throw in to give Troy runners on second and third. A dropped pop in the infield allowed another run to score and left runners on second and third with Troy only trailing 8-7.
After another strikeout, Furlong drew a walk to load the bases, but Jones got one more strikeout to end the game and record a save.
“I can’t say enough about Madison Jones, so far as being a freshman and being able to get the job done the way she has,” Schaefer said. “Usually freshmen don’t make that big of an impact for me, and this is the first time in a long time that’s happened. Mercedes usually throws the ball well, but sometimes pitchers just don’t have it that day, and she just didn’t have the pop she normally has.”
For Troy, it was just a case of too little, too late — emphasis on the late.
“We scored 25 runs in two games and then came out here and basically laid an egg until the last inning,” Beeler said. “It’s frustrating, but I was glad to see them fight back. But we can’t wait until the last inning to try and come back against a team like this. Milton-Union’s a good team.”
Erica Keenan took the loss for Troy, giving up 11 hits and five walks while striking out one.
“We wanted to give Hallie (Snyder) the day off, and we wanted to get Erica some time. And she did a good job,” Beeler said. “For the most part, she held them in check. We made some mistakes that allowed them to get some runs, but we’ve got to give her the production she needs to get a win. We had 22 hits last night (in a 15-14 win over Piqua) and 10 today. If you’ve got 10 hits, you’ve got to have eight or nine runs to go with it. We just didn’t give her enough support.”
Milton-Union, meanwhile, got started early.
Bree Nevels led off the bottom of the first with a double and Courtney Seevers singled to put two on. Kya Swartztrauber drove in the first run with a sac fly and Jones beat out an infield single to put the Bulldogs up 2-0. Troy got a run back in the top of the third after Ella Furlong singled and scored on an error, but Jones doubled and scored on an Annika Hutchinson RBI single in the bottom of the inning to make it 3-1. Troy cashed in a double by Hannah Setser in the fourth on another run-scoring error, though, cutting the lead to one again.
But the Bulldogs blew it open in the fifth. Swartztrauber drew a one-out walk and Jones singled, and Lizzie Oaks beat out an infield single to load the bases with two outs. Hannah Oaks then drew an RBI walk and Brown blooped a two-run single into center, then Nevels drove in another run with a single to give the Bulldogs a 7-2 lead.
Gregg turned that into a six-run gap in the sixth, drilling a leadoff homer to make the score 8-2.
“That’s huge. That pretty much sealed the win for us,” Schaefer said. “If it wasn’t for that, it’s a tie ballgame with the bases loaded. But a six-run lead is probably the minimum where I would’ve made the bunch of changes I made. Still, the girls that were in should have got it done, there were some plays that should have been made that weren’t. Still, you can only learn from your mistakes.”
The Bulldogs were scheduled to close out the regular season against Brookville Thursday, opening tournament play against Bethel in a second-round game on May 9. Troy, meanwhile, hosts Trotwood Friday then plays Fort Loramie and Wapakoneta at the Houston Showcase on Saturday.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.