By Josh Brown
TROY — Not finishing Tuesday’s game against Sidney in the fifth inning with a run rule turned out to be a good thing — for a number of reasons.
After the Yellow Jackets scored a run in the top of the fifth to make it a nine-run game and force at least one more inning, Troy senior Natalie Henson hit a walkoff home run to lead off the bottom of the sixth inning, putting an abrupt end to an 11-1 Senior Day victory for the Trojans that finished off a two-game sweep as they kept pace with the Piqua Indians for the lead in the Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division title race.
With the score 10-0 Troy (12-7, 7-1 GWOC North) in the top of the fifth, the Trojans recorded the first out of the inning at home plate as a runner tried to score on a double by Morgan Carey, but center fielder Lainee Poling tracked the ball down and threw to shortstop Hannah Wright, who fired to catcher Melanie Henson to nail the runner by three steps. With two outs, though, pitcher Natalie Henson got a swinging strikeout on a wild pitch that allowed the inning to continue and the run to score, keeping the game going at least one more inning.
“It’s always frustrating when something like that happens, especially knowing my sister is behind the plate,” Natalie Henson said. “It’s both of our fault on a play like that. It’s frustrating … but I still knew we’d finish the game strong.”
For Troy coach Dan Cain, his team getting to bat in the bottom of the fifth had other advantages.
“I was okay with the game going one more inning, because I knew it meant that Taylor Stookey would get a chance to bat in the bottom of the inning,” he said. “She’s another one of our seniors, and I knew she was still coming up. I was glad that she got to get in the game.
“Our goal today was to finish the game with seven seniors on the field on Senior Night. Our first goal is always to win, but if we could do that and have all seven of our seniors on the field, we wanted to do that — and that’s what we did.”
After Natalie Henson and the Troy defense set the Jackets down one-two-three on only seven pitches in the top of the sixth, she led off the bottom of the inning — and on a 1-1 count, she blasted a no-doubt walkoff home run over the fence in left-center to end the game in one swing, her third homer of the season.
“It (the wild pitch earlier) just made that feel a little better,” Natalie Henson said.
It was a huge day for Troy’s seniors overall, as they scored nine of the team’s 11 runs. Natalie Henson was 3 for 4 with the homer, two RBIs and three runs scored, while No. 9 hitter Sara Goodwin had the big hit in a six-run third inning, a three-run triple, and scored a run. Brooke Beeler was 1 for 2 with two runs scored, Wright scored two runs and Poling had an RBI hit-by-pitch. Melanie Henson caught as the flex player, and Stookey drew a walk in her only plate appearance.
Savannah Nelson was 2 for 4 in the game with a double and two runs scored and Camryn Moeller was 1 for 4 with a double as Troy scored four runs on Sidney wild pitches and another on a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch.
Natalie Henson pitched all six innings for the win, giving up five hits, walking one and striking out three.
“We did a good job of hitting the ball today,” Cain said. “They struggled to throw strikes at times, but when they did throw strikes, we hit the ball well. Natalie threw a nice game, and we played really well defensively.”
On Monday, the Trojans also run-ruled the Jackets 10-0 in six innings, with pitcher Hallie Snyder throwing a no-hitter. She struck out three and walked two as the defense once again played well behind her — with right fielder Goodwin throwing out a Sidney runner at first base on what could have been a sharp single to right field but ended up a nine-to-three putout.
Troy also hit four home runs in the game, with Lauryn Rutan going 3 for 4 with a pair of solo homers and three RBIs. Nelson was 3 for 4 and hit a three-run homer, and Natalie Henson was 2 for 4 and hit a solo shot. Moeller was also 3 for 4 with a double and Poling drove in two runs.
At the end of the day, the Trojans remained tied with Piqua (13-4, 7-1 GWOC North) for the division lead. The Indians run-ruled Butler 11-1 to complete a two-game sweep, setting up a giant head-to-head showdown on May 2 and 3.
“It was so important,” Natalie Henson said. “We knew coming in today that we’d have to work hard — and also knowing that the league title is on the line. We have to beat Piqua twice now to win it.”
Before that, the Trojans host Springboro Wednesday.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.