Robin Kiser - Miami Valley Today - https://bit.ly/41vpeK4
TROY — Nothing ever comes easy when it comes to Troy-Vandalia Butler baseball.
And while it may have looked otherwise for six innings for the Trojans at the Market Street Diamond, their fans were all holding their breath before the final three outs finally came in a 6-4 Troy win.
The Trojans are now 10-4 overall and 9-1 in the MVL, while Butler drops to 9-5 overall and 5-3 in the MVL.
The game had started with a Ryder Kirtley home run in the first inning and Troy rode that momentum to leads of 5-0 and 6-1 heading into the seventh inning, before things seemed to take a bizarre turn.
Up to that point, Butler had just four hits.
But a walk, a bunt single and a throwing error on a bunt single made the score 4-2.
Jacob Lucas entered the game for Troy and got a strikeout, but the ball went to the backstop, with the batter reaching first and a runner scoring.
Austin Flohre followed with a RBI single and suddenly it was 6-4 with no outs, the tying runs on first and second and the 3-4 hitters coming up.
But, Lucas was not flustered.
“I don’t let things bother me,” Lucas said. “I just keep things closed in. I focus on what I am doing. I am just focused on throwing out there.”
He got a strikeout for the first out.
Then, Butler hit a looper to first baseman Hayden Frey.
As the Butler runner on first scrambled to get back, Frey dropped the ball.
“I asked Hayden (Frey) if he dropped the ball on purpose,” Welker said with a laugh. “He told me he didn’t, but I would have been fine with it if he did.”
When Frey dropped the ball, the runner on first panicked and took for second base.
Frey stepped on first base to retire the batter, then threw to shortstop Kirtley at second base and he tagged the runner out to end the game with a crazy double play.
“I just knew I had to make a play in that situation,” Frey said. “That is all I was thinking about.”
And nobody was happier than Lucas.
“That is a pretty unusual way for a game to end, I will say that,” Lucas said with a smile.
Lucas’ composure didn’t surprise Welker.
“That is just what Jacob Lucas does,” Welker said.
“He came in and threw strikes.”
Troy started Andrew Helman was outstanding in his five innings.
He struck out 11 and allowed just two hits — one an infield single — while hitting one batter and walking one.
But, Welker decided 86 pitches was enough.
“That is his first game against good competition where he has thrown that many pitches,” Welker said.
Kirtley had a two-out homer in the first inning to get things started.
“He threw me an off-speed pitch,” Kirtley said. “I kind of hacked at it, it got up in there and it just kept carrying.”
It disappeared over the centerfield fence.
“It felt great,” Kirtley said. “We had a big crowd here. It got us all pumped up.”
“He didn’t have a good game (the first game with Butler),” Welker said. “I guess he just wanted to show everybody what he could do. It was wind aided, but we will take it.”
Frey followed with a double and Eli Donnan had a double in the second, but the score remained 1-0.
Troy took advantage of two Butler errors in the third inning and Kirtley, Owen Harlamert and Matthew Hempker all had RBI singles to make it 4-0.
“We took advantage of their mistakes and we had some timely hits,” Welker said.
Troy got a run in the fourth when Connor Hutchinson started things with a double and would scored on a bases loaded walk to Harlamert.
After Butler got a run in the top of the fifth, Troy answered to make it 6-1.
Evan Kaiser doubled and scored on a Caleb Akins single.
But, Troy left a total of seven runners on in the third, fourth and fifth innings.
“I don’t want to complain, but we were one hit from really breaking it open.”
In the Butler sixth, Flohre single and Hunter Richardson doubled, but Trayce Mercer retired the next three batters to get out of it unscathed.
“Trayce (Mercer) did a great job pitching out of that inning,” Welker said.
Helman, Mercer and Lucas would combine on a seven-hitter, striking out 14 and walking two.
Butler used four pitchers to combined on an eight-hitter, striking out six and walking four.
Troy and Tipp both have one loss in the MVL and are scheduled to play Monday and Tuesday — and Piqua has just two losses in conference play.
“I am sure both of those teams feel like they are in good position,” Welker said. “They both play us twice. But, we are not worried about anyone else. We are focused on what we do.”
“It is big to sweep Butler,” he said. “But, we expected to sweep Butler. When we take the field, we expect to win.”
A little excitement at the end never hurts anything.