By Josh Brown
TROY — After routing Fairborn earlier during the regular season, the Troy softball team could have felt a little shellshocked when the Skyhawks scored three first-inning runs in their tournament game.
But the Trojans understood one thing.
“I told them after they came in off the field in the top of the first, ‘Hey, this team’s here to play,’” Troy coach Scott Beeler said. “We beat them 12-5 last time we played them, but they’re a different team. And we’re a different team. They came to play, and I was glad to see when we got on offense that we came to play, too.”
Troy, the No. 5 seed in the Division I sectional tournament, responded with four runs of its own in the bottom of the first and never lost the lead again, adding an insurance run in the second and holding on from there for a 5-4 victory over the No. 9 Skyhawks Monday in a first-round game at Market Street Diamond.
Earlier in the season, Troy (15-11) had lost its first five games before hosting Fairborn, defeating the Skyhawks 12-5 on April 6 for its first win of the year and kicking off a six-game winning streak. In that game, the Trojans jumped out in front to a 5-0 lead and then put the game away with a seven-run sixth inning to close out the win.
Monday, though, Fairborn (14-10) got off to the fast start.
Kelsey Coleman and Riley Davis singled to begin the inning, then Kendall Winn drove a two-run double to the fence in left field to put the Skyhawks on top. Kenzie Culbertson added an RBI single, then Troy starter Hallie Snyder got a strikeout and a popout to get out of trouble with Fairborn holding a 3-0 lead.
The Trojans weren’t overly concerned
“Hallie, her past couple of starts, has given up some runs in the first inning,” Beeler said. “I wasn’t too worried because I knew she usually settles in and doesn’t give up any more — and she did exactly that. She settled into her rhythm and started throwing really well. She and (catcher) Kearston Riley did a great job tonight.
“Our girls were not phased in the least. They had confidence in Hallie. They knew she’d shut them down, and all they had to do was score four or five runs and we’d be okay.”
And Troy responded.
Megan Malott reached on an error and Kearston Riley singled, then Tia Bass drew a walk to load the bases with one out. Savannah Nelson hit a two-run single and took second on the throw home, leaving runners on second and third. An RBI groundout by Paige Nadolny tied the game, then Snyder hit a two-run double to the right-center gap to give Troy a 4-3 lead after one.
The Trojans added an insurance run in the second as Riley and Josie Rohlfs both singled with one out and advanced to second and third on a wild pitch, then Bass beat out an RBI infield single to make it 5-3. Troy had a chance for more, but Fairborn shortstop Winn threw out Rohlfs at home on a grounder, then catcher Ashlyn Baker threw to third to double off Bass to end the inning.
Again, Beeler was confident.
“I want the girls to be aggressive when they’re on base,” he said. “They made an aggressive decision, which I am perfectly fine with, because now that catcher has to come up with a kid under her feet and make a good throw under pressure to third. Well, the girl made the play, and you’ve got to give her props for that. That’s what we wanted to do, make them make a play.”
Snyder and the defense made that two-run lead stand up. Fairborn’s Jordan Wilson doubled to lead off the fourth and eventually scored on a wild pitch to make the score 5-4, but that was as close as the Skyhawks got. Snyder scattered seven hits — four of them coming in the first inning — and two walks over seven innings while striking out seven to get the win and leaving 10 Fairborn runners stranded, including the bases loaded to close out the fourth inning.
And after Kenzie Culbertson singled to lead off the top of the seventh, Troy second baseman Rohfls snared a hard line drive and threw to first to double off the runner to prevent a tough situation from developing, then Snyder induced an easy pop to Rohlfs for the final out of the game.
“Our defense has been solid all year,” Beeler said. “Our hitting has been up and down — we’ll get 10 or 15 runs one game and two or three the next. But our defense has been solid most of the year. And Josie is just a solid second baseman. Three or four errors over the past three seasons, only one this year — I’m glad I have her around one more year. And our defense is smart. They’ve all got at least one year of experience playing out there, and that’s a nice luxury to have, to have that defense I can rely on.”
The Trojans piled up 12 hits on the day, with Riley and Cierra Ulrich both going 3 for 4 and Riley adding a double and two runs scored. Bass was 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI, Nelson was 2 for 4 with two RBIs and Snyder doubled and had an RBI.
In the second round on Wednesday, the Trojans will face another team they saw in the regular season, No. 13 Centerville (8-12). Troy lost to the Elks 13-5 in the season opener way back on March 26 on the road, while Wednesday’s game will be played at Troy — with a berth in the sectional title game on the line.
“When we went to Centerville our first game, we saw a really tight strike zone. We issued 20 walks,” Beeler said. “We haven’t had more than seven or eight in a game since. We outhit them 16-5, and they got all their runs off of those 20 walks and five errors.
“You’re a different team at the end of the season. You’ve got a full season under your belt, both teams. We’ve got to play our best ball and see what happens.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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