By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — Numbers may not lie, but they can certainly misrepresent some things.
That’s the message Troy softball coach Scott Beeler has been trying to hammer home for his players as the regular season enters its final few weeks.
“This team, I keep telling them and telling them, you’re better than your record,” he said. “And they keep working hard, they keep rooting for each other, and I firmly believe this team can finish 16-11. We can win out. If we play good ball and play good defense, we can win out.”
And Thursday, the Trojans showed what they’re capable of when they do believe that.
Three different Trojans drove in two runs as the team took advantage of every mistake Stebbins made, Troy’s defense played an error-free game and Lexi Piper put an end to the game early with a walk-off two-run double in the bottom of the fifth as Troy routed the Indians 12-2 in Greater Western Ohio Conference American League crossover play Thursday at Market Street Diamond.
And, with a cursory glance at records and some recent common opponents, one would have thought coming into the game that the result was going to be a toss-up — but that ended up being far from the case.
Troy improved to 5-11 overall and 4-4 in the GWOC American North Division with the win, while Stebbins fell to 7-11, 3-6 in the GWOC South. Since beginning the season 1-9, Troy has only lost two games, splitting division series against both Sidney and Butler. Stebbins, meanwhile, owns an 11-10 win over Butler and only lost to Sidney 5-4 in extra innings.
“Since we started 1-9, we’ve won four out of six,” Beeler said. “We’re playing good right now. But the nice thing about tonight was that we didn’t give up the big inning. Against Sidney and against Butler, we gave up that big inning.
“They’ve got a good team. They’re getting better and better, their pitching is getting better, and I was a little worried about how good they are coming in. But I think it shows how good we can be when we play a good game, take advantage of the other team’s mistakes and we don’t make any.”
And from the start, the Trojans took advantage of Stebbins’ mistakes.
Megan Malott drew a walk to lead off the bottom of the first, stole second and advanced to third on a ground ball. Paige Nadolny then hit a grounder to short, and Stebbins decided to go for the out at the plate — only to throw the ball away at home to bring in a run on an error. After another walk and a wild pitch put runners on second and third, an error off the bat of Tia Bass brought home two more runs, and Bass eventually scored on a wild pitch to give Troy a 4-0 lead with only one hit in the inning.
Troy extended the lead in the third. Bri Lavender walked, stole second and scored on a one-out RBI single by Jaiden Hunt, then James added an RBI to make it a 6-0 game after three.
And after the Indians finally got on the board with a pair of runs in the top of the fourth, the Trojans answered with four more in the bottom of the inning. A walk and an error put runners on the corners with one out, and Bass drove in a run with an RBI single. Another walk loaded the bases for Ella Furlong, who ripped a two-run single down the third-base line, and an RBI single by James gave Troy a 10-2 lead.
Troy then sealed the win in the bottom of the fifth in walk-off fashion, with Josie Rohlfs leading off with a single and an error and walk loading the bases for pinch-hitter Piper, who promptly drove the ball to the gap in right-center for a two-run double that gave Troy a 10-run lead.
“We’ve still got a few injuries and are a ways away from being at full strength, but top to bottom, whoever I can bring in off the bench, I know everyone can hit,” Beeler said. “Lexi’s not a starter, but you know what? She can hit the ball. And she came off the bench and ended that game.
“Anybody I pull off the bench, I know they can hit, they’re going to be ready and they’re going to do their job. And that’s nice to know.”
James finished the game 2 for 3 with two RBIs, Furlong was 1 for 3 with two RBIs, Piper was 1 for 1 with a double and two RBIs, Hunt was 2 for 2 with an RBI, Bass drove in a run and Paige Nadolny and Briana Lavender both scored three runs.
And defensively, starting pitcher Erica Keenan went three innings to get the win, allowing three hits and walking four but striking out five — including two strikeouts to get out of bases-loaded jams in the first and third innings. James finished off the game in the final two innings, allowing two runs on four hits with no walks and one strikeout.
The win pulled Troy into a tie for last place in the GWOC American South at 4-4 with seven division games still to go — including a critical series Monday and Tuesday against Tippecanoe, which currently sits in second place at 7-2. Troy will host the series opener on Monday.
“The hardest part of our schedule is behind us,” Beeler said. “We lost a few games that we probably should’ve won, our record could be a little better but it’s not. But we understand that, and the girls are going to give it everything they have to finish the season strong.
“We’ve still got a chance at second place. Tipp’s a good ball team, and we’ve got them on Monday and Tuesday. If we play error free and play our best, we can win. But if we don’t, Tipp’s going to take advantage of it. If we can play well Monday and Tuesday, second place is still a possibility for us.”
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at email@example.com, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.