By Josh Brown
TROY — Hayden Kotwica hit the first pitch the Trojans saw over the left field fence.
All three of Sidney’s seventh-inning pitchers hit the first pitches they saw into the dirt.
In the end, clutch hitting by the Trojans and an outstanding performance by starting pitcher Cole Brogan and the defense led the Troy baseball team to a 5-2 victory over the Yellow Jackets to complete a two-game sweep in Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division play Tuesday at Market Street Field.
The win, Troy’s third in a row after a 2-7 start to the season, makes the Trojans 5-7 on the season and 4-2 in GWOC American North play. Sidney, meanwhile, falls to 2-9 and 0-5 in division play.
“We just need these couple games to regroup,” said Kotwica, who was the winning pitcher in Monday’s 6-3 victory at Sidney. “We’ve been struggling at the plate, so it’s good to come out, be able to play back-to-back nights and keep getting cuts in and just keep improving.”
Kotwica finished the game 2 for 4 with the leadoff homer and a two-out RBI triple in the bottom of the sixth that gave the Trojans a little more insurance heading to the final inning. Jake Daniel was 2 for 3 with an RBI, Brogan had a two-out, two-run single in the first and Zion Taylor was 1 for 3 as Troy outhit Sidney 6-4 on the day.
“I think the kids have found ways to get things done over the last three games,” Troy coach Ty Welker said. The Trojans began their three-game winning streak with a 9-5 win over Anna on Saturday. “Early in the year, we didn’t execute. I think we have a little better approach at the plate. We’re not there yet — offensively, I feel like we should still be scoring some more runs, but I think we definitely have a better approach.”
Four of Troy’s five runs on the day came with two outs.
“We’ve been working on that in practice,” Kotwica said. “When it’s rained, we’re in the gym doing situational hitting in the cages. That’s what we’ve been working on. It feels good (to put it to use on the field).”
Brogan, a sophomore, made it all stand up, too, improving to 2-1 in his three starts and 2-0 at home. He struck out four, walked none and scattered four hits in the game — and retired 15 batters on ground balls.
“They (the defense) knows they’re going to get ground ball outs,” Welker said. “Cole gets ahead in counts, and Sidney is a first-pitch-swinging team. He gets ahead of batters and gets them to hit his pitch instead of the other way around. His ball has a lot of movement.”
After a one-two-three inning by Brogan to begin the game, Kotwica launched the first pitch that Sidney’s Caleb Harris threw over the fence in left to hand Troy a 1-0 lead. Brandon Emery then walked and Keiran Williams drew a one-out walk, then both runners moved to second and third on a wild pitch. And with two outs, Brogan rifled a grounder down the third-base line that stayed fair, bringing home both runs on a two-run single to make it 3-0 after one.
“He’s been big,” Welker said of Kotwica. “Yesterday, he did the same thing — he hit the first pitch off the fence. He’s not a typical leadoff hitter because he swings at first pitches, but he’s done his job. We’ve had some injuries, he had to fill in there, and he’s done a great job there. Even his outs are balls that are hit hard, just right at people.”
Sidney answered in the second after back-to-back singles by Cole Hoffman and Kaine Fischer and an RBI groundout by Kyle Noble, but the Trojans got that run back in the bottom of the inning by cashing in a leadoff walk to Chase Weaver with a two-out RBI single by Daniel. Hoffman hit a solo homer in the fourth for the Jackets, and that’s where things remained until the sixth.
Sidney threatened in the top of the inning, with Austin McLain reaching on an error and Harris singling to put two runners on with no outs — and Hoffman, who was 2 for 2 at that point, up. But Brogan got him to ground back to the mound and threw to third to get the lead runner for the first out. He then induced a grounder to Matt Bigley at third, who stepped on the bag and threw to first for an inning-ending double play to keep Troy up 4-2.
“I knew what (pitch) we were throwing, a two-seamer on the guy’s hands. I had a feeling he was going to roll it over, so I said ‘Bigley, this one’s coming to you,’” Welker said. “The next pitch, boom, right smack too him, and he was ready.”
And in the bottom of the inning, pinch hitter Tyler Brandenburg led off with a walk and was bunted to second, and with two outs Kotwica hammered a pitch over the center fielder for an RBI triple to make it a three-run game — which was more than Brogan needed. In the top of the seventh, Sidney hit three straight first pitches to Bigley at third for easy outs to end the game.
“A three-pitch inning. I haven’t seen one of those in a long time,” Welker said with a laugh. “All to the third baseman, too. Bigley’s been playing solid third base for us all year, and we’re just a confident team when Brogan is on the mound. He has a nice tempo, and we’re a better defensive team with him on the mound.”
Troy will look for its fourth in a row Friday when it hosts Xenia, then the Trojans host Springfield Shawnee on Saturday for Senior Day.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.