PIQUA — It was everything you would want in a baseball game with league championship implications.
There were big plays by both sides throughout, before Troy came away with a 5-4 victory at Hardman Field.
Troy improved to 17-4 overall and 15-1 in the MVL, while Piqua dropped to 14-7 overall and 11-3 in the MVL.
Troy can clinch the title with a win over Xenia Monday.
“Piqua played a great game,” Troy coach Ty Welker said. “This really was a great game and I didn’t expect any less from them.”
Piqua coach Brad Lavey felt the same way.
“I was proud of our kids effort,” Lavey said. “We did a lot of good things out there today. At the end of the day, you have to be able to get that two-out base hit and we didn’t do it (with the tying runs in scoring position in the sixth and seventh innings).
It was a two-out single by Zane Pratt in the sixth inning for Piqua with Owen Shawler on third and Brennan Johns on second that had cut a Troy 5-2 lead to 5-4.
“That was a big hit and Zane Pratt has done those kind of things for us all year,” Lavey said.
The brought in Troy closer Jacob Lucas and Pratt stole second base before Lucas got a strikeout to end the inning.
“I love those kind of situations,” Lucas said. “That’s where I live. I don’t want to be pitching in a blowout. I love save situations.”
After Pratt pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the seventh, Piqua had one last chance.
Brady Ouhl walked on four pitches.
Mickey Anderson then moved him to second on a sacrifice and Mason Davis hit a ball up the middle that had the potential of tying the game.
Troy shortstop Ryder Kirtley not only fielded the ball behind second base, but threw Davis out by half a step at first as Ouhl moved to third base.
“That was an amazing play by Ryder (Kirtley),” Welker said. “To get to that ball and throw the runner out.”
Shawler then hit a hard one hopper to first that Hayden Frey handled unassisted for the final out.
“I was just hoping he (Hayden Frey) would field it,” Lucas said. “And he did. I am really not thinking about anything in those situations except making the pitch. Like I said, those moments are where I live.”
Mercer has seen it before.
“That is (what Jacob Lucas does),” Welker said. “That is all we had left at that point. Of course, he made it interesting and the defense made some great plays behind him.”
Connor Hutchinson had a big day at the plate for Troy, starting with a single in the first inning. He was 5-for-5 on the day with two RBIs.
“I lover pressure,” Hutchinson said. “It is just staying in your routine. I started out the season okay and everything just clicked.”
In the second inning, Troy took a 3-0 lead by taking advantage of a Piqua error.
Matthew Hempker, Eli Smith and Eli Donnan all singled to load the bases.
Evan Kaiser’s fielders choice scored a run and Hutchinson hit a ball in the infield and when the throw got past first, two runs ended up scoring to make it 3-0.
“Once I saw the throw get past, I was running them,” Welker said.
Hutchinson was safe on a close play at second and Kaiser took off for home on that throw and scored on another close play.
Troy had taken a 4-0 lead in the fourth on a two-our RBI single by Hutchinson.
“Connor (Hutchinson) had some really good swings tonight,” Welker said.
And Trojan starter Brian Allen retired eight of the first nine batters he faced.
But, a wild pitch in the fourth scored one run and a bases loaded walk to Cohen Brown forced in a run and with two outs, Trayce Mercer came in to get a ground out and end the rally and keep the Trojans in front 4-2.
“I thought all three of our pitchers threw well,” Welker said. “Brian (Allen) was rolling those first three innings. But, we had some walks that got us in trouble.”
A bases loaded walk to Owen Harlamert in the top of the sixth made it 5-2, before Piqua rallied and set up drama in the sixth and the seventh.
“I have confidence in everyone on our team,” Hutchinson said. “That play Ryder (Kirtley) made in the seventh inning was amazing. We want to win a real championship. Last year, we were co-champs. That is okay, but we want to win the championship ourselves.”
Allen, Mercer and Lucas combined on a six-hitter, striking out eight, walking four and hitting two batters.
Hunter Steinke and Pratt combined on a 10-hitter, with four strikeouts, eight walks and a hit batter.
It was Welker’s 301st win — at the same place where he got his first win.
“I remember that,” he said. “We were 0-12 my first year as Piqua coach and we beat Independence to go to 1-12. I lover Hardman Field. I have been on both sides of it here.”
And while win 301 was pretty special, a win Monday would be just as special.
Sports Editor Rob Kiser can be reached at [email protected]