SIDNEY — Sidney’s softball roster is full of underclassmen, including four freshman who were a part of a 20-win middle school team last year.
The young Yellow Jackets have shown flashes of potential this season, but their inexperience has shown up as well, including during a Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division game against Troy at Aschenbach Field on Tuesday.
Sidney had nine hits against Troy’s Erica Keenan and left four runners in scoring position on base, including two in the third inning. Still, the Yellow Jackets had a one-run lead heading into the seventh.
But the Trojans had five hits — including a grand slam — in the seventh and pushed across six runs to take control and earn a 6-1 win.
Sidney falls to 1-6 overall and 0-4 in divisional play with the loss, while Troy improves to 3-5 overall and 3-2 in league play.
“We had runners in scoring position five out of the seven innings and couldn’t get one in the grass to get anybody across,” Sidney coach Wade New said. “We just couldn’t get that base hit when we needed it. We let teams hang around and hang around, and eventually third or fourth time through the order, they’ve seen the pitcher and everything that’s going to be thrown.”
Sidney freshman pitcher Lauren Barker limited the Trojans to four hits in the first six innings. In the seventh, though, Troy frequently took pitches to the outfield — and took one over the fence.
Cierra Ulrich struck out to lead off Troy in the seventh, but Megan Malott then hit a single back to Barker and Madelynn Lavender hit a single to center field. Josie Rohlfs then hit a grounder to third base and reached on a throwing error by Sidney’s Allie Herrick.
With the bases loaded, Troy sophomore infielder Tia Bass took Barker to a full count — including a called three ball that New and the Yellow Jackets thought was a strike.
On the next pitch, Bass hit a shot over the center-field fence to put the Trojans up 4-1.
“We thought we had her, but obviously (the umpire) didn’t see it that way,” New said. “We had to try to keep her on the plate — couldn’t put her on base with a walk. It ended up she just got a good swing, put the barrel on the ball and tattooed one for us.”
Kearston Riley then walked for Troy, and Savannah Nelson followed with a double to center field to score Riley. New then put in Sidney senior Maddie White to finish the game, and Paige Nadolny hit a single off her to score Nelson. White forced the last two Trojan batters to hit into routine outs.
Hallie Westerbeck had a single to start the seventh, but the last three batters went down in order.
It’s one of several close games the Yellow Jackets have had — including a 4-3 loss at Troy on Monday.
“They’re playing hard, and they’re just so close to breaking it open,” New said. “Every game we’ve played, we’ve had an opportunity. We just haven’t been able to get that big hit yet, but it’ll come.”
Herrick, a junior, is leading the team with a .400 batting average, .545 on-base percentage and 10 RBIs. She drew two walks on Tuesday. Westerbeck, a junior infielder, is batting .320 and has pushed across four runs.
Barker, a freshman, is batting .304 and has 5 RBIs. She has a 4.27 ERA in 39 1/3 innings in the circle with 34 strikeouts.
Freshman shortstop Khia McMillen, freshman catcher Mackenzie Benshoff and sophomore infielder Faith Bockrath have played in every game for the Yellow Jackets.
“I think a couple of (our younger players) still have bug eyes every once in a while,” New said. “They get up there and can have a rough time at it. Khia… had a rough day today, but she had a home run earlier this season.
“They all can play, that’s why they’re at the varsity level. It’s just a matter of them believing in themselves a little bit, getting comfortable.”
Like all teams in the area, Sidney’s fought against the weather more often than it’s fought against opponents this season. With cold, rain and snow keeping the team indoors and away from the field, the younger players haven’t gathered the experience New hoped they would have by this point.
But with seven games under their belt and five on the schedule over the next four days, New said they’re growing up fast.
“We’ve got to play,” New said. “There’s no more excuses. Throwing the ball around, throwing it behind the runner. That’s stuff’s got to be out of the system by now. It’s just a matter of time… and I think it helps when we get to play a couple of nights in a row instead of playing one and then waiting for a week.”
Westerbeck had three hits Tuesday, all singles. Taylor New had two singles, including a one down the left-field line in the fourth.
After New’s fourth-inning single, Morgan Carey hit a single to center field. The next two batters hit into routine outs.
The Yellow Jackets scored their lone run in the third after Herrick drew a walk with the bases loaded and no outs. After the walk, McMillen struck out and Westerbeck was tagged out between third and home. Benshoff then grounded out to end the inning.
Nelson and Nadolny opened the second with singles to left field, but Sidney then turned a double play to get out of trouble. The Trojans then had two hits over the next four innings before their outburst in the seventh.
Sidney returns to Aschenbach Field to host Tippecanoe (4-4, 2-1 GWOC North) in a conference game on Wednesday.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.