TROY — Sidney’s players and coaches were getting flashbacks late in a Division I sectional final on Thursday at Market Street Field.
The story was similar to a district semifinal last season: getting a lead early against a strong Miami Valley League foe, only to be clinging to it late.
But unlike that district semifinal, Sidney made enough plays in Thursday’s sectional final to beat league rival Troy 5-4 and advance.
The No. 8 seed Yellow Jackets (17-8) will face No. 5 Springboro (18-8) in a district semifinal at 5 p.m. on Tuesday at Centerville High School.
Sidney scored four runs early to take control, then added another in the fifth to take a 5-2 lead.
But the Trojans scored two in the sixth to cut the gap to one, then had two runners on base with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.
It looked like Troy was going to tie it when Hayden Frey hit a hard ground ball to Sidney shortstop Aiden Booth.
Booth initially bobbled the ball after fielding the hard hit as Troy’s Caleb Akins raced home from third. But Booth was able to recover and throw to first baseman Mitchell Davis just ahead of Frey for the game-winning out.
“Honestly, when he bobbled it, I kind of gave up on it,” Sidney coach Tom Goffena said. “I didn’t give up on him, I just didn’t think it was going to happen. …I didn’t put my head down but kind of just thought, ‘Oh man,’ and was thinking about getting (out of the inning with a tie).
“But all of a sudden I looked up and saw him fire it over there. What a play that was. What a play, just to recover from that.”
Carson Taylor was on the mound late in that game and made some miscues that contributed to the loss.
Goffena said last year he had confidence in Taylor and would have put him in late if he had to do it over, and he had no problem doing so on Thursday.
Taylor remained cool Thursday. He had a key strikeout of Troy No. 5 hitter Owen Harlamert in the sixth and struck out one batter in the seventh.
“I just told the guys, because about 90 percent of our guys were on that team last year, that it was Carson on the mound going (into the bottom of the seventh) up one,” Goffena said. “I just had déjà vu all over again.
“… Luckily enough, we caught a couple of the breaks to get the win.”
Davis picked up the win on the mound. He started and pitched 4 1/3 innings and gave up two earned runs on five hits and five walks while striking out six batters.
“He’s doing well,” Goffena said. “He needs to control his pitches a little bit more so he doesn’t throw 90 (pitches) through four innings, but he’s only a sophomore, and he’ll only get better. A lot of people forget he’s a sophomore because he played with us last year. He’s learning a lot still.
“He got big strikeouts at big times and he just kept us in the game.”
Taylor, who earned a save, pitched 2 2/3 innings and gave up two earned runs on two hits and four walks while striking out five batters.
“I trust Carson Taylor to close it down. That last inning I went out there and said, ‘I wouldn’t have anybody else but you,’” Goffena said. “I told him that last year when we lost to Vandalia. I said I’d do the same thing over again, and we’re in the exact same situation, and I did the same thing over again, just because I don’t trust anybody more in the late innings than Carson.”
The Yellow Jackets lost 3-0 to Troy on April 19 at Market Street Field and 6-1 on April 22 in Sidney.
Thursday saw a repeat of the April 22 matchup: Davis against Troy’s Trayce Mercer.
Davis lasted just 2 2/3 innings after giving up five walks and one hit in that April matchup. Mercer pitched a complete game, allowing four hits and four walks while striking out nine batters.
Sidney hit Mercer better on Monday. The squad finished with four hits in the five innings Mercer pitched and drew three walks. The Yellow Jackets put the ball in play plenty as well and benefited from six errors by the No. 4 seed Trojans (23-5).
“Our bats have been struggling; they’ve been struggling all year to be honest with you,” Goffena said. “… But we made contact early, and that was good. …They gave us a couple of runs there with some errors. In this type of game against a great team like Troy, we’ll get runs however we can.”
Davis gave up two singles with two outs in the bottom of the first but struck out Haralamert to get out of the inning.
Sidney took control in the top of the second.
Aiden Booth hit a home run to left field with one out, then Donavin Johnson hit a grounder to third and reached on an error. AJ McClain then hit a sacrifice bunt, and Davis drew a walk.
“Aiden got us started there,” Goffena said. “That got our dugout nice and jacked up a little bit.”
Aiden Ike hit a single on a pop fly to left field to score Johnson and Davis and push the lead to 3-0, but Ike was thrown out at second to end the inning.
The Yellow Jackets added another run in the third. EJ Davis drew a walk with one out. He stole second with two outs.
Jack Davidson hit a ground ball right to Troy shortstop Ryder Kirtley, but the ball went under Kirtley’s glove into left field. Left fielder Eli Donnan couldn’t get the ball in on time, and EJ Davis scored to push the lead to 4-0.
Troy cut into the gap in the fourth. Connor Hutchinson was hit by a pitch with one out, then Mercer hit a single to left.
Mitchell Davis walked the next three batters, which drove across two runs for the Trojans.
Eli Smith, who had two hits in his previous two at bats, then came to the plate. He moved the count to 2-2 after hitting a monster foul ball by left field that would have been at least 10 yards over the fence if fair, but Davis struck him out on the next pitch to end the inning and keep Sidney ahead 4-2.
The Yellow Jackets got one run back in the fifth.
EJ Davis hit a grounder to second base and reached on an error by Akins. He stole second and third with Taylor at the plate. Taylor struck out, but Davidson hit a double that bounced to the left-field fence and drove in Davis to push the lead to 5-2.
Mitchell Davis gave up a walk and a single in the bottom of the fifth, but Taylor was brought in to pitch and struck out the next two batters to end the inning.
The Trojans scored two runs on the sixth.
Nick Kawecki hit a single to right field to start the inning, then Taylor walked the next two batters. Kawecki scored on a passed ball, and another run scored on a ground out to cut the gap to 5-4.
Taylor walked another batter, and the two runners eventually moved to second and third. But Taylor struck out the next two batters to get out of the inning.
Taylor struck out the first batter of the seventh, then walked a batter. He coaxed a ground out for the second out, but Kirtley hit a hard ground ball to Booth, who made a tough throw. Mitchell Davis had to come off first base to catch it, and Kirtley was safe.
With runners on third and first, Frey hit the hard grounder to Booth, which he recovered and threw to Davis for the final out.
EJ Davis had three stolen bases, while Johnson had one.
“When those two guys get on base, they wreak havoc,” Goffena said. “Even if we play a team with great defense, they don’t want to see those guys get on base, because they wreak havoc.”
Sidney had four hits and didn’t commit an error. Troy had seven hits and finished with six errors.
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.