By Josh Brown
TROY — To Troy’s Brandon Emery, it looked like a typical lazy fly ball.
But his sixth-inning shot turned into an exciting — and game-ending — play.
Emery’s deep fly ball to right field was misplayed by a Xenia defender, getting lost in the sun and then lost against the base of the fence for just long enough for Emery to race around the bases for a two-run walkoff inside-the-park home run, capping off the third-seeded Trojans’ 13-3 win in six innings over the No. 7 Buccaneers Thursday at Market Street Field in the second round of the Division I sectional baseball tournament.
The Trojans led 7-3 going into the bottom of the sixth inning but were able to string together a series of hits along with a Xenia error to bring go up 11-3 and bring Emery up as the potential winning run with a man on base and one out. He hit a fly ball to deep right field, but it seemed high enough off the bat that the defender would easily track it down.
That’s not what happened at all, as the outfielder lost it in the sun and held up his hands to defend himself, having no clue where it was coming down. It landed on the ground and rolled to the fence without being touched, giving Emery new life on the basepaths.
“At first I thought it was a routine fly ball, but it just kept carrying,” Emery said. “I looked at first base coach (Jake) Wells, and he was just like, ‘Go, go go!’ And I just kept going and didn’t stop.”
By the time the ball was finally scooped up and headed back to the infield, Matt McGillivary — who had an RBI single in the inning — had already scored from first and Emery was rounding third, easily scoring to give Troy a 10-run lead and end the game without allowing Xenia to hit in the seventh.
“I wasn’t going to stop,” Emery said. “I knew they didn’t have a chance. We knew coming into the game that we needed to be aggressive, and that’s what I tried to do for my team. We knew we needed to be loud and aggressive, because that’s what drives us.”
On the day, the Buccaneers committed four errors, two of those coming on dropped popups or fly balls, and lost three other balls in the air, both on the infield and in the outfield.
“First of all, they played the deepest I’ve ever seen anybody play,” Troy baseball coach Ty Welker said. “And we had a couple of hits taken away from us early on because of that. They played back, that was their philosophy, and I don’t know if they’ve dealt with a lot of sun before — it can be tough to pick the ball up coming out of that tree (behind home plate), but every ball in the air was an adventure.”
And after the adventure, the Trojans’ postseason quest continues.
Troy, which improved to 17-8 with the win, will take on fifth-seeded Northmont in the sectional championship game Thursday at Centerville High School. It will be the second straight sectional final appearance for the Trojans, who last won advanced to the district final in 2015.
Even with the Trojans leading wire to wire, scoring four in the bottom of the first and never seeing the deficit go below two runs, Welker knew the team couldn’t rest easy. During the regular season meeting between the teams, the Trojans went extra innings against the Buccaneers (20-9), winning 8-5 back on April 13.
“I’m telling you right now, that’s a good baseball team,” Welker said of Xenia. “They had 20 wins, and I don’t care what your schedule is, what league you’re in, if you win 20 baseball games … my hat’s off to those guys. After Tuesday’s game (between Xenia and Fairborn, an extra-inning Xenia win), we didn’t know who we wanted. We knew whoever it was was going to battle, and we knew Xenia was a scrappier team.
“Those guys compete and battle. Going into that last inning, I just knew what kind of team they are — they’re a scrappy team that’s not going to let us win, not going to roll over. Nothing was over until it’s over. We even had (Derek) McDonagh warmed up to come in and close the thing.”
It turned out Cole Brogan did enough to get the job done, though, limiting the Bucs to three runs, two earned, on six hits and one walk while striking out five in the six-inning complete game.
“I think Cole threw really well,” Welker said. “He’d be the first to say it probably wasn’t his best stuff, but it was the first home game he’s pitched all year. We had a couple of plays on defense that we took off, all in one inning, and that can’t be us. But he picked it back up, and we went out and put some more runs on the board.”
And one key play in the top of the fifth allowed Troy to get out of a jam with minimal damage. Logan Bilbrey and Kyle Lane both hit one-out singles and a wild pitch moved them up to second and third, and Aydan Evans drove an RBI single up the middle. Both runs should have scored, but the trailing runner slipped up while rounding third base and was forced to hold there — and the next batter hit a ground ball that allowed the Trojans to gun the runner out at the plate, keeping the score 7-3 after five and allowing Troy’s six-run sixth inning to end the game.
Offensively for the Trojans, Emery finished a double shy of the cycle, going 3 for 4 with a triple, a homer and two RBIs, Austin Kendall was 2 for 3 with three RBIs, Jake Daniel was 3 for 3 with a double and two RBIs, McGillivary was 3 for 5 with an RBI and Matt Bigley drove in a run.
For Xenia, Lane was 2 for 3 with an RBI and Evans drove in a run. Warren Maher took the loss on the mound, giving up six runs on seven hits and four walks with one strikeout in three-plus innings.
Troy will host a regular season game against Beavercreek Monday before Thursday’s sectional final against Northmont at Centerville.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.