By Josh Brown
BEAVERCREEK — Troy softball coach Dan Cain’s post-game assessment following Monday’s Division I sectional championship loss was spot on.
“If you take our errors away, this is a different game … ,” he said, “… but that’s part of the game.”
Six Trojan fielding errors over the first two innings led to seven unearned runs and a 10-run deficit, putting 10th-seeded Troy up against a wall early against No. 2 Northmont — a team that won a regular season contest between the teams, too. And while the Trojans cleaned up their defensive play after that and began pounding the ball offensively, the hole was simply too big to dig out of in a 12-7 season-ending loss to the Thunderbolts Monday at Coy Middle School in Beavercreek.
A dropped fly ball, an errant flip to first on a slow grounder, a missed cutoff throw and a dropped popup gave Northmont (26-3) plenty of extra chances in the first inning, leading to five of the six runs that were scored being unearned. The only run-scoring hit in the inning proved to be a three-run double by Lizzie Ritchie, and the T-Bolts sent 11 hitters to the plate and took a 6-0 lead.
And in the second inning, another dropped fly ball and a booted grounder led to two more unearned runs and chased starter Natalie Henson, who gave up seven hits, walked two and allowed 10 runs — three earned. Erin and Anna Mangen each had an RBI single in the inning, and the Trojans trailed 10-0 after only two innings.
It was a far cry from the first time the teams met on April 21, when the teams were deadlocked in a cleanly-played defensive struggle all the way to the fifth inning before the T-Bolts posted a hard-fought 4-1 victory. Northmont also ousted the Trojans from tournament play last season, defeating them 8-0.
“Natalie actually did fine today. We just gave them way too many extra outs,” Cain said. “We knew they were going to hit the ball. They hit all the way through the order, and they found holes today. We struggled defensively, didn’t communicate well on our cutoffs, misjudges some fly balls.
“In hindsight, maybe I start (pitcher Hallie) Snyder. They didn’t hit her very well last time, and they didn’t hit her well today either when I put her in. But without those errors, this is a very different game, no matter who pitches.”
Snyder did come in and keep Northmont’s bats quiet. She pitched 4 2-3 innings, allowing eight hits, walking two and giving up only two runs, both earned, while striking out three.
Camryn Moeller got Troy’s offense started, meanwhile, blasting a one-out solo home run in the top of the third. But Northmont tacked on a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth — the only ones they’d score off of Snyder on the day — and threatened to end the game early in a run rule.
But the Trojans wouldn’t quit.
Snyder led off the top of the fifth with a solo homer to cut Northmont’s lead to 12-2, but the T-Bolts recorded the next two outs. Moeller then hit a single, and a bloop single by Josie Rohlfs — who had tripled earlier in the game — turned into runners on second and third after the T-Bolts tried to get the lead runner. Lauryn Rutan followed that up with a two-run double to the fence in left-center, keeping the Trojans alive and making the score 12-4.
Troy had a chance to get more in the sixth, but with runners on first and third, Northmont’s catcher was able to catch the lead runner leaning and picking her off to end the threat.
Even in the final inning, though, the Trojans kept fighting. Moeller doubled with one out and advanced to third on a groundout. Rutan was hit by a pitch to put runners on the corners and bring up cleanup hitter Savannah Nelson. With the Trojans down to their last strike, Nelson blasted a double that drove in both runs and kept Troy’s hopes alive. And Henson followed that with an RBI double of her own, cutting Northmont’s lead to 12-7 before a called third strike put an end to the Trojans’ rally, and season.
Moeller finished the game 3 for 4 with an RBI, missing the cycle by only a triple. Rohlfs was 2 for 4 with a triple and a run, Rutan and Nelson each were 1 for 3 with a double, two RBIs and a run, Henson had a pair of doubles and an RBI, Snyder was 2 for 2 with a home run and Kearston Riley doubled.
“The fight the girls showed coming back, that says a lot about them,” Cain said. “The girls never quit. They never hung their heads — even though they easily could’ve after getting behind 10-0. They just kept fighting.”
Which says good things for the future.
“We have a lot of good, young kids in this tough situation that came through — and are coming back next year,” Cain said. “The girls kept fighting no matter what tonight, and they came back after those early mistakes and made it respectable. That gives us a lot to build on for next year.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.