By Josh Brown
TROY — Baserunning blunders, errors in the field and an off-kilter approach at the plate in scoring situations.
Troy made a lot of the same mistakes it has all year — but clutch pitching and one huge defensive play in the top of the seventh made them all not matter for the moment.
After the Trojans loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the sixth but only got one run out of it, taking a 6-5 lead into the final inning, catcher Keiran Williams threw out the leadoff runner trying to steal — right before a would-have-been-RBI double was hit to the fence — and reliever Nick Matney got a pair of groundouts to leave another would-be tying run stranded on third base as the Troy baseball team held off Greenville for a 6-5 Division I sectional tournament victory Wednesday at Market Street Field.
The ninth-seeded Trojans improved to 16-11 with the win and advance to face No. 4 Fairmont in a second-round game Thursday on the road, while No. 16 Greenville finished its season at 11-17.
With the Trojans protecting a one-run lead in the seventh, Greenville’s Kyle Mills reached on an infield dribbler to lead off the inning. After Matney nearly picked him off first on a close play, Williams gunned him out trying to steal second — and a double by Logan Eldridge to the fence in left-center on the next pitch turned that into the play of the game.
“I had no idea (it would be that important,” Williams said. “I just saw him running and threw it like I’m told to. That was a really big play, considering the next guy hit a double and he would’ve scored and tied the game.”
“That double would’ve scored that run, so it was a great throw and a great job by (Troy shortstop Brandon) Emery to get the tag down.”
Eldridge took third on a groundout to second base for the second out, then Matney forced a groundout to third for the final out.
“That (the caught stealing) is a huge deal, all things considered,” Troy coach Ty Welker said. “Starter Jared Bair pitched well and kept us in the game early, Nick came on and threw a nice game in relief. And Williams was in the game to make a difference — and that’s exactly what he did.”
Troy began the game strong, scoring three in the bottom of the first to take control early. Troy Moore and Bair hit back-to-back singles, with Moore later scoring on a wild pitch. Alex Riedel and Jake Daniel followed with RBI singles, giving the Trojans a 3-0 lead. And they tacked on another run in the second as Emery walked and stole second with one out then came home on a two-out RBI double by Bair.
But the Green Wave fought back in the top of the third. Brayden York led off with a single and Mills drew a one-out walk, then Eldridge drove in Greenville’s first run with his first double of the day. Troy’s left fielder then dropped a fly ball off the bat of Tanner Ross, allowing two runs to score on the error and making it a 4-3 game.
“A lot of the mistakes we’ve made all year long, we made today,” Welker said. “Hitting popouts with a 2-0 count and guys in scoring position, dropping fly balls in foul territory, getting picked off third base — we did it all. The difference, though, was that this time we were able to overcome it all and still win the game.”
Troy added an unearned insurance run in the bottom of the third. Daniel reached on an error with two outs and Joe McGillivary pulled an RBI double over the right fielder’s head to give Troy a 5-3 lead.
But the Wave refused to give up. Brandon Beyke led off the top of the fourth with a single, an error on a bunt put two runners on and a sac bunt moved the to second and third with one out. Jacob Houndshell hit an RBI sac fly to make it 5-4, but Bair got a popup to short to end the inning.
Bair’s final line was three strikeouts, two walks, four hits and four runs — one earned — in four innings of work, and he also went 3 for 4 with a double, an RBI and a run at the plate.
The Trojans missed a golden opportunity in the bottom of the fifth to extend the lead. Riedel led off with a walk and stole second and third base, then Matney drew a walk to put runners on the corners with one out. Matney broke for second and the catcher threw down — but the pitcher Mills leapt up to cut off the throw and instead fired to third, catching the lead runner leaning too far away from the bag for the second out — and the Trojans ended up getting nothing out of it.
Greenville made that missed opportunity look costly in the top of the sixth. Beyke reached on an error and stole second, took third on a groundout and scored on a two-out RBI single by York that tied the score at 5-5.
The Trojans got the lead back in the bottom of the inning, though, but again missed a chance to pull away more. Emery led off with a walk and Moore and Bair both beat out infield hits to load the bases with no outs. Austin Barney hit a slow roller to short, and the throw home was late for what proved to be the game-winning RBI. A shallow flyout to right kept the runner on third from even trying to tag up, then a flyout to left turned into a double play as Eldridge threw the runner out at home.
But Matney, Williams and the rest of the defense held the lead in the top of the seventh, and Troy celebrated the win regardless. The Trojans will now travel to Fairmont Thursday — where they lost 7-3 less than a week ago, against a Firebird team that they defeated 6-3 in last year’s sectional championship game.
“We’ve got to play a very good Fairmont team now,” Welker said. “We beat them in the sectional final last year, so we know they’re going to be hungry. We can’t let these mistake become us.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.