Monday, May 11, 2009

Troy Tough; Flying Horses use another come-from-behind victory to knock off La Salle

La Salle's Will Kiley (2) slides in safe at home plate after scoring on a wild pitch in the fourth inning. Troy pitcher Iziah McCowan (1) applies the late tag. Troy, however, rallied for a 9-6 victory over its crosstown rival at Troy High School. (All photos by J.S. Carras - The Record).

The Troy High baseball team has had a well-documented problem this year: they fall behind early but usually find a way to somehow claw their way back to a victory.

They did it again Monday afternoon against five-time defending Big 10 champion and crosstown rival La Salle Institute.

With a two-out rally in the sixth, Troy scored four runs. Chris Bertrand pinch ran for Mason Duncan after Duncan singled and took second on the throw and Bertrand was the potential game-winning run.

It was Bertrand's first-ever pinch running foray and he looked the part after Ryan Chamberlain singled just behind the second base bag. Bertrand did a little dance around third base before realizing Troy head coach Curtis Nobles was waving him home, but he slid in just in time, leading the Flying Horses to a crucial 9-6 victory over the Cadets.

"I thought coach was saying hold up but he wasn’t, he was waving me around," Bertrand said. "I was just a little nervous. It was a big game and I was the winning run, you know?"

Troy trailed by as many as three runs early on and found a way to make a comeback after Andrew Christie hit into a double play as the second batter of the frame.

"I have the toughest 16 kids in Troy," Nobles said. "They’re resilient and these kids have earned everything they’ve got. Nothing has been given to them and they keep plugging away and plugging away. They’re never going to back down and that’s what we teach – Troy Tough."

Troy's Matt Krogh (7) reaches first base safely after knocking the ball loose from La Salle first baseman Nick Bernardo (left) during the fifth inning of Monday's game. Two batters later, Anibal Maldonado ripped a two-run double to left field, tying the game, 5-5. Troy assistant coach Norris Benbow looks on in the background.

Krogh finished 3-for-4 and was robbed of a base hit on a great fielding play by La Salle's Kyle Charron to lead off the fourth inning.

Iziah McCowan
delivered a strong start for Troy, scattering six runs across a pair of sacrifice flies, an RBI groundout, a wild pitch and a hit batsman with the bases loaded.

La Salle's Zach Ferris also did a nice job, allowing two unearned runs through four-plus innings of work.

Troy relievers Justin Schnellbaecher and Jesse Twiss, however, did a great job as Schnellbaecher worked out of a huge jam (runners on the corners, no out) in the sixth and Twiss pitched a 1-2-3 seventh for the save.

"He’s Twiss Cheese," Nobles said of The Record's back page moniker for the Flying Horses' sophomore closer. "Jesse is a gamer. He has a heart of a freaking lion and what he did today was the epitome of our team. He doesn’t back down from anybody. He had 4-5-6, their best hitters, and he went right after them."

Troy's Mike Barna reacts after scoring on Anibal Maldonado's double during the fifth inning of Monday's Big 10 game against LaSalle at Troy High. Troy's Steve Ziter (23) and Nick Pontari (24) look on.

Something that is hard to miss about the Flying Horses, despite Bertrand's foibles on the basepaths, is that this Troy team knows how to run the bases. Without an outfield fence on their home field, anything hit to the gaps becomes a question mark off the bat. How hard can the runner run? How fast can the outfielders retrieve the ball and get it back in?
The Flying Horses know that it is all they can do to run like heck and try to get as far as they can before Nobles tells them to slow down and that gives them a big home field advantage.

"It adds a lot of character to baserunning," Nobles said. "We have strong but fast kids. We don’t have big burly guys that are going to knock the ball all over the place. We try to hit line drives in gaps and get on our horse."

Call 'em the Cardiac Kids, call 'em Troy Tough. Call 'em whatever you want. But when the going gets tough for the Flying Horses, the game is going to get exciting, one way or another. That was particularly the case in front of a big crowd against a Collar City rival on Monday afternoon.

"There is just something with this team," Bertrand said. "It's a great bunch of guys and we never give up. That’s the key – we never give up. We always stick together, 1 through 16, and we’re out there trying to pick each other up."

For the seniors, Monday meant much more than just another victory in the win column. It was all about pride.

"I’ve never beat La Salle." Chamberlain said. "Maybe on JV. They have great players and everybody knows that. They’re going to come to play every day but we’re a dangerous team, too."

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