By Josh Brown
PIQUA — The Troy baseball team went into Tuesday’s matchup against Piqua knowing that, whether or not it took care of its own business, it still needed help.
So the Trojans focused on their own end, what they could control, finishing off a sweep of the rival Indians with a 12-1 run-rule victory in five innings Tuesday at Hardman Field, and then, once the post-game speech was over, they got the good news — that Butler had upset Tippecanoe 3-2, knocking the Red Devils down into a tie for the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division lead with Troy and setting up a chance for the Trojans to be co-division champions.
And after sitting through the normal, everyday speech and being surprised with that news, the Trojans celebrated accordingly — as in loudly.
“We told them at the end,” Troy coach Ty Welker said. “We wanted to have our normal talk, so we told them at the end. Truly, no one even asked the question (during the game). The guys weren’t even thinking about it — or even expecting me to say something about it to them after. Geezy-petes.”
Troy improved to 14-6 overall and 12-2 in the GWOC American North with the win, while Tippecanoe fell to 12-2 in the division with the loss to Butler. Both teams have one American League crossover game remaining on Friday, with Troy hosting 1-13 Trotwood and Tippecanoe facing 3-13 Stebbins, practically guaranteeing that the two teams will share the North title.
But Welker isn’t letting those thoughts get in the way this time. Last week, the Trojans had been in the driver’s seat and controlled their own destiny after splitting a series with the Devils. But a shocking 3-2 loss at then 3-14 West Carrollton on April 27 forced Troy to depend on Butler to at least split with Tippecanoe — and after Tippecanoe beat Butler on Monday, Tuesday was the Trojans’ last chance to get a share of the title.
“Our focus was on us — it was always on us,” Welker said. “Even in our loss to West Carrollton on Friday, we were focused on us. We just had an off night then and faced a good pitcher.
“We took care of ourselves, our business, this week, and now we’ve got to play Trotwood Friday. We’re not looking past anybody.”
Troy knew it certainly couldn’t overlook Piqua (8-14, 6-9 GWOC American North), especially after the Trojans held on for a narrow 7-5 victory on Monday to begin the series. And the Indians took charge on Tuesday on their home turf, getting an RBI single by Austin Davis in the first inning to go up 1-0 — which was where the score remained until the top of the third as Piqua starter Iverson Ventura kept the Trojans off balance the first trip through the lineup.
“They (Piqua) battled, and that first guy was kind of tough to get a read on,” Welker said. “But then we started putting the ball in play, dropped down some bunts, started running well, and that put a little pressure on him. Those guys are tough for us to hit, and they did a nice job. But once the flood gates opened, we let the guys go. We know that once they start swinging, they stay hot and we just kind of stay out of their way.”
The Trojans tied the score in the top of the third. Matt McGillivary drew a walk to lead off, took second on a groundout and third on a sac fly with two outs, then Keiran Williams cashed him in with a clutch double to the left-center gap to even the game at 1-1.
But that was only the beginning.
After a strikeout to start the top of the fourth, Austin Kendall and Braeden Snider both drew walks to set up Austin Kloeker, who yanked a two-run triple up the hill in left field to put Troy up 3-1. A bunt single by McGillivary and a stolen base — the first of Troy’s six steals in the final two innings — put runners on second and third, Brandon Emery dropped down a bunt RBI single and then, after a Piqua pitching change, Jake Daniel planted a two-run double in the left-center gap to make it a 6-1 game before the second out of the inning was finally recorded. But Jacob Adams and Kendall both added an RBI single before it finally came to a close, and Troy led 8-1 after four.
The Trojans remained hot in the fifth to put the game away, as Daniel hit an RBI single, Williams followed with a two-run single and Cole Brogan hit an RBI double to make it a 12-1 game and put Piqua in a tough spot, needing to score two runs in the bottom of the inning just to keep the game going.
But with Brogan on the mound, that just wasn’t going to happen.
Brogan gave up only four hits and walked one — with the walk and two of those hits coming in Piqua’s first inning — striking out six in the game. And even though the Indians had runners in scoring position in four of the five innings, helped along by two Troy errors, Brogan and the defense found their way out of every jam, leaving seven Piqua runners stranded in the game.
“What can you say about Cole Brogan?” Welker said. “He does what he does, got a lot of ground balls, and I think we had a couple errors behind him. But he got out of some tough situations, and he battled. He did what he’s done for us all year.”
Piqua actually had two runners on in the bottom of the fifth when the Tippecanoe-Butler game went final, as Mick Karn singled just as reports came in from that game. But Brogan induced a groundout to Matt Bigley at third for the final out, ending the game and putting Troy into a first-place tie.
The Trojans will host Fairmont Thursday before Friday’s matchup with Trotwood, then Troy will finish the regular season by hosting Lakota West Saturday and traveling to Centerville on Monday.
“Nothing’s final yet league-wise,” Welker said. “We’ve still got to play Friday. We’ve got to stay focused, and we’ve got some other big games this week, too. We’ve got three home games in a row, and we’ll see what we can do.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.