By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — Ella Furlong found herself in a situation she’d never been in before.
But the junior knew just how to react.
“I thought ‘this has never happened to me before,’ where the person before me was intentionally walked,” she said after Butler elected to walk the batter before her to load the bases with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning. “Maybe it’s where I am in the lineup. So I was excited. I was ready. I though, ‘I hope they regret that.’”
She made them regret it.
Furlong blasted a clutch bases-clearing double to the gap in left-center, scoring all three runs and, at the time, giving the Trojans an eight-run lead. That insurance proved to be huge, though, as Butler put together a six-run rally in the top of the seventh, with that shot proving to be the game-winning hit as the Troy softball team held off the Aviators 10-8 to earn a season series split in Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division play Thursday on a soggy Market Street Diamond.
Troy (7-12, 6-5 GWOC American North) already held what seemed to be a solid 7-2 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth. Tia Bass and Josie Rohlfs both singled and stood on second and third with two outs with Lauren Fonner — who was 3 for 3 with a pair of doubles at that point — coming to the plate. So Butler (10-10, 5-6 GWOC American North) chose to put Fonner on first and face Furlong — who herself was 2 for 3 at that point, including a slap-hit single from the left side of the plate — with the bases loaded.
“I was considering hitting from the left side and slapping,” Furlong said. “At first I thought I just wanted a base hit — but I decided that, bases loaded, two outs, I should try and hit the ball as hard as I can. So I hit from the right side. I just decided to stick with where I feel most comfortable.”
“Lauren is coming back from an injury, and we’ve brought her back kind of slow so we don’t overdo it with her hamstring,” Troy coach Scott Beeler said. “It’s good to have her back, and she was having a big day. So they walk her to get to Ella, and she hits that huge double to clear the bases.
“Ella came up huge for us all over the field today.”
In the fourth inning, with Butler already leading 2-1 and threatening to tack on even more, Furlong made a critical defensive play at third base. With runners on first and second and only one out, Morgan Wright — who entered the day second in the division in home runs and RBIs — ripped a line drive down the line. But Furlong was able to not only snare it, seemingly in self defense, but she was able to throw to Rohlfs at second base to complete a double play, and the Trojans got out of the inning without any damage done.
“Had I blinked, I would have missed that,” Furlong said of the catch.
“That catch she had was big,” Beeler said. “That would’ve been at least two runs there. Defensively, Ella’s came up big for us all year. She’s been a key part of our defense. And she’s been hitting the ball a lot better lately, too.”
Butler was able to draw first blood in the game, taking a 1-0 lead on an RBI single by Nikita Brown in the top of the second. Troy then tied the score in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single by Megan Malott, but an RBI sac fly by Megan Allen in the top of the third put the Aviators back on top at 2-1.
After Furlong’s double play in the top of the fourth, the Troy offense rode that momentum in the bottom of the inning. Fonner led off with a single and stole second, then a single and stolen base by Skylar Kline with one out put two runners in scoring position. Malott beat out an RBI bunt single to tie the game, then Paige Nadolny crushed a two-run double down the line in left to give the Trojans the lead. Briana Lavender added an RBI single and Jaiden Hunt knocked an RBI double over the left fielder’s head to give Troy a 6-2 lead.
Troy added another run in the bottom of the fifth, cashing in a leadoff double by Fonner on an RBI sac fly by Kline to make it a five-run game. Furlong’s big hit in the sixth seemingly was the icing on the cake — but Butler wasn’t done.
Ari Wade doubled to begin the Aviators’ seventh-inning rally, then a walk and a hit-batter loaded the bases. A wild pitch brought in one run, then Brown and Riley Truesdale hit back-to-back RBI singles to make it a five-run game. Back-to-back walks, including a bases-loaded one to Abby Bardonaro to force in a run, made the score 10-6 and brought the potential tying run to the plate in the form of Wright.
She hit into an RBI fielder’s choice, though, making the score 10-7 with two outs and two on. Amber White followed with a bloop RBI single to bring the potential go-ahead run to the plate — but a popout, fittingly to Furlong at third, put an end to the game.
“We knew Butler could hit the ball well and that they had the ability to come back,” Beeler said. “
Offensively for Troy, Fonner was 3 for 3 with two doubles and three runs scored, Furlong was 3 for 4 with a double and three RBIs, Malott was 2 for 4 with two RBIs, Nadolny doubled and had two RBIs, Briana Lavender was 2 for 3 with an RBI, Hunt doubled and had one RBI and Kline had one RBI as every Trojan in the lineup got at least one hit. Erica Keenan got the win on the mound, allowing eight hits, walking seven and hitting two batters while striking out two.
“Getting Skylar and Lauren back from injuries is big,” Beeler said. “And Ella, she’s been fighting a hip injury, so I told her that if that hip is bothering her and she wants to slap, to go for it, because she can. It’s nice to have those weapons that, when somebody’s hurt, can modify how they’re playing and stay in the lineup. Everyone in this lineup can hit, we’re getting some girls back, and the girls I have on the bench can come in and produce, too. I can only play nine at a time, though — but that’s a good problem to have.”
For Butler, Brown was 2 for 4 with two RBIs, Wade was 2 for 5 with a double and Wright, White, Allen, Truesdale and Bardonaro each had an RBI. Wade took the loss on the mound, walking three and allowing 15 hits.
The win moves Troy out of a tie with Butler for last place in the division heading into a key series against Piqua next week. First up, though, the Trojans have their Senior Night game Friday against West Carrollton in a GWOC American League crossover matchup.
“We had to do our sectional tournament draw rankings today, and there’s nobody in our sectional with more than 10 wins,” Beeler said. “I think that sectional, I don’t know who’s coming out of it. Going into the tournament, having some girls back, everybody playing well and hitting the ball well, I believe in this team. I think we can win a few tournament games. I don’t think our season is going to end quickly.”
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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