BY JAKE LOURIM
TROY — Mitch Weigand hammered the ball to the gap in left center field. And the winning runs came home. One, by one, by one.
“It’s sort of something you dream about at home,” Weigand said.
Weigand went 3-for-4 with six RBI, leading Troy over archrival Troy Athens in a 9-7 OAA Blue Division home win Friday.
The game had gone back and forth all day: Troy (3-4) led 3-0, then Athens led 5-3, then Troy tied it at five, then Athens took the lead 6-5 going into the sixth inning.
Finally, however, Troy managed to bring home the clutch hits, cashing in on the opportunities it had.
“That’s one of the things that’s been hurting us the last couple weeks,” Mullen said. “We’ve literally had the bases loaded several times and we ended up getting zero or one out of it. We keep talking to the guys, focusing on our approach at the plate, telling them that we don’t have to stretch too hard, just staying within ourselves.”
With the top of the Troy lineup coming up, Alex Marshall reached on an error, and Justin Losey walked. Junior John Hunter moved both runners over with a bunt, and senior Damon Gaudino’s bloop single to shallow right field brought home Marshall to tie the game.
Two batters later, Weigand came to the plate. After a two-run single in the third and an RBI double in the fifth, Weigand — a switch-hitter — took his right-handed spot against the left-handed pitcher and swung away, smashing the ball to the gap.
“I was just getting good pitches to hit,” Weigand said. “Up until this point, I was kind of struggling at the plate, but I simplified my swing and it worked out.
“I took away my stride, so I’m not picking my foot up and putting it down closer to the pitcher. I keep my foot planted.”
Losey scored first, then junior Nick Panella, then Gaudino, as Losey waved home Panella, and the two together waved home Gaudino.
“When that ball went up, it was kind of a no-doubter that it was going to land,” Mullen said. “It’s that moment where everyone realizes, ‘We did it. We just won this game.’ It’s not over, we still have another out to work with and we have to go close it out, but it took a lot of pressure off us. Going back on the mound, John Hunter could relax.”
It had taken two and a half hours and six errors, but Troy beat its archrival.
Not without some final fireworks, however.
Hunter took the mound for a third inning of work in the seventh, walking the first hitter and later giving up a single. The first run scored on a fielder’s choice to make it 9-7, and senior Michael Thomas bobbled a grounder at shortstop to put another man on.
After a stolen base, the Red Hawks had the tying run in scoring position with two outs.
It wasn’t long before Thomas had a chance for redemption. He backhanded a grounder and fired it to first base to beat the runner in a bang-bang play.
Hunter earned the win with three innings of two-hit ball, giving up one earned run and three walks.
“John’s a guy we’re really counting on right now,” Mullen said. “He’s in the top three of our pitchers when we’re looking at how we want to piece things together. We were thinking that he’s the type of kid who can come in and be a closer-type kid for us. When guys are on base, he’s not bothered by that. He manages the game well, and he came to us and told us that was the role he wanted. I said, ‘Alright, it’s yours if you can handle it.’”
Troy finished with ten hits, two by Panella, who started the game and pitched four-plus innings, gave up five runs (four earned) on three hits and four walks and earned a no- decision.
Five other players managed one hit each.
“We were working deep into the count, drawing walks, getting lots of hits and making the pitcher throw lots of pitches,” Weigand said, “then he leaves one over the plate for us to hit.”
However, the fielding issues continued for Troy. After committing only one error in each of the first three games — excluding two pickoff throws — the Colts made six miscues Friday, three by Thomas at shortstop.
“I would have thought it would be the opposite,” Mullen said. “I would expect six errors against (Bloomfield Hills) Lahser when it’s 35 degrees and our first time out. For whatever
reason, we’ve been inside in the gym a lot. We started getting into some technical practices, working on some plays, suicide squeezes, pickoff moves and different stuff. We got away from hitting a lot of ground balls and doing the reps we need to do.”
Thomas took the loss for Troy in Monday’s 10-6 defeat against Bloomfield Hills Andover. Junior Blake Belgeri lost on the mound Thursday at Birmingham Groves with a final score of 12-11.
(Jake Lourim is a senior at Troy High School and a member of the S.H.P. Media Group / www.northoaklandsports.com Student Correspondence Program. He is publisher of website www.troycoltsportsupdate.com and a member of the Troy school newspaper editorial staff. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)