By Josh Brown
VANDALIA — Why settle for one nail-biting victory when you can have two?
The Troy baseball team got stellar pitching efforts from both Derek McDonagh and Cole Brogan, clutch defensive performances and timely hitting from everyone and yet another walkoff hit by Matt Bigley Wednesday night, sweeping a doubleheader at Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division rival Butler with a pair of 3-2 victories — the second of those in extra innings.
Derek McDonagh pitched a one-hitter in the first game, leaving the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh by striking out the final two batters to seal the Trojans’ first victory over the Aviators since 2014 — the last time Troy won a division title. And in the second game — which also featured a rain delay — Brogan scattered eight hits and didn’t give up an earned run in nine innings of work, with Bigley beating out a two-out RBI infield single to seal Troy’s first season sweep of Butler since 2012 — another division championship season for the Trojans.
And after it was all over — 16 innings and more than five hours after it began — Troy sat atop the GWOC American North standings at 8-0 in division play, 9-3 overall, while Butler fell to 8-7 overall and 5-2 in the American North.
“That’s a lot of baseball. I’m tired,” Troy coach Ty Welker said. “But it feels good. The guys battled all night and just didn’t quit.”
The opening game of the doubleheader turned into the toughest battle in division play yet for McDonagh, who had only given up a total of one hit in two previous North Division games, including a perfect game against Sidney.
The Trojans took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first as Tyler Brandenburg singled to lead off the game and eventually scored on a two-out RBI single by Jacob Adams. But Butler tied the score in the bottom of the third as Evan McKinney struck out but reached base on a wild pitch, stole second and was driven in on the Aviators’ only hit of the game, a two-out RBI single by Boston Smith.
Troy retook the lead in the fifth, though, as Brandenburg was hit by a pitch and walks to Jake Daniel and Adams eventually loaded the bases with two outs. Brogan then yanked a two-run double over the left fielder’s head, bringing home two runs and putting the Trojans up 3-1.
Brogan finished the game 2 for 3 with a double and two RBIs and Adams was 2 for 3 with an RBI.
“Brogan has been putting the ball in play, and he hit the ball hard there,” Welker said. “We put guys on all game, which put some pressure on Norman. He had to throw a lot of pitches under stress, he got up in pitch count, we extended some innings, and the whole team did a nice job offensively.”
But in the bottom of the seventh, McDonagh walked the first two Butler batters to put the tying runs on base, and an error on a bunt by Preston Tofstad cut Troy’s lead to one, still with no one out. A groundout put runners on second and third, and McDonagh issued an intentional walk to load the bases and set up a force everywhere with one out.
“I don’t know what was wrong. I just knew I had to battle and fight,” McDonagh said. “You’ve got to fight and have that one-pitch-at-a-time mentality. I just knew I had to put it in the zone — I wasn’t about to give them any free more free bases. I knew I couldn’t let that happen. I was just trying to throw strikes and let my dudes play for me.”
“That was probably a bit of uncharted territory for him,” Welker said. “I got a little nervous in that last inning when he put the leadoff hitter on. Butler’s a different team when they get the leadoff hitter on. But he did a nice job.”
McDonagh struck the next batter out swinging for the second out, and he got the final batter of the game looking on three pitches to seal the win.
The senior finished with seven strikeouts on the night, walking three and hitting one batter and allowing one hit and two runs, neither earned. Butler’s Braedon Norman took the loss, striking out four, walking four and hitting one and giving up five hits and three runs.
“He just did his job again,” Welker said of McDonagh. “He’s a competitor. He wants the ball. He did a great job, and he battled and finished the game.”
“We’re trying to win the North, and this team is very good this year. This win was huge for us,” McDonagh said.
And it was only the beginning.
After Brogan began the second game of the doubleheader with three scoreless innings, the Trojans — the home team for the nightcap — took a two-run lead in the bottom of the third. Austin Kendall led off with a sharp single and Ethan West drew a walk against Butler starter Ryan Qvick, and a sacrifice bunt by Bigley put runners on second and third with one out. Qvick got a called third strike for the second out, but Brandon Emery — who had turned a double play on defense in the second inning — ripped a two-run single to bring in both runners and put Troy up 2-0.
That was where things remained after four innings, but with Butler coming up in the top of the fifth — which would have made the game official — the tarps came out to protect the field from a light but constant rain, causing a half-hour delay. The Aviators took advantage of the delay once play resumed as Karter Peck led off with a single, and an error on a bunt put runners on second and third. Cameron Miller hit an RBI groundout and an error on another bunt tied the score at 2-2 before Troy catcher Keiran Williams caught a runner trying to steal and Brogan induced a groundout to get out of the inning.
Both teams had chances to win the game from there, with Troy loading the bases with one out in the sixth but not being able to score and Butler leaving four runners on bases the rest of the way and having three more picked off by Williams. In the top of the eighth, Williams — who had already picked a runner off first earlier in the game — picked a Butler runner straying too far off second base. Then twice — once in the eighth and again in the ninth — the Aviators botched squeeze bunt attempts, and Williams made the smart play both times to erase runners from third base and help preserve the tie.
And in the bottom of the ninth, the Trojans finally broke through.
Adams reached on an error with one out and took second on a wild pitch, then Kendall — who was 2 for 3 at the time — was intentionally walked with two outs. Chase Weaver was then hit by a pitch to load the bases for Bigley, who had the game-winning walkoff hit in the bottom of the seventh in Troy’s 9-8 win over Springboro just last week.
And Bigley did it again, pulling a hard grounder down the third-base line off of reliever Quinton Hall and beating it out for a walkoff RBI single to bring home Adams and complete the sweep.
“I just wanted it to be over,” Bigley said with a laugh after the lengthy game and night. “I just knew I had to get a hit right there. I saw it went down the line, and I just knew I had to beat it out.
“This was huge. Two big wins. It feels pretty good.”
“Bigley’s just a kid that puts the ball in play,” Welker said. “He makes things happen. I made some mistakes in the innings before that — I see the bats we have coming up, and I think somebody’s going to hit a ball hard through the infield. I’ll take the blame for those, but the guys battled. That was two big games.”
And two big wins that put Troy atop the GWOC American North standings at 8-0, with 13-1 Tippecanoe only a half-game back and the only other team unbeaten in league play at 7-0.
“It was nice,” Welker said of the sweep. “We’ve never played a doubleheader against Butler on a weeknight, I’ll tell you that. But I talked to the boys about it yesterday, and they were excited about it. Their mentality has been that way all year — they want to play baseball.
“We always have to worry about Vandalia. Every year, in the offseason, in the weight room, we think ‘Vandalia, Vandalia, Vandalia.’ That’s our motivation.”
Now the Trojans will need to shift their focus — after Thursday’s game at Wright State against Fairfield, the Trojans play a two-game series against those Red Devils, beginning with a matchup at Tippecanoe on Monday, that will go a long way in deciding the North Division championship.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.