By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — The Tippecanoe baseball team may have been excited after run-ruling division rival Troy Monday.
But coach Bruce Cahill was quick to bring his players back down to earth.
“I just got done telling them that it’s one game. It only counts as one game. And they run-ruled us at our place last year after we beat them here,” Cahill said. “You don’t get two wins for a run rule. You’d better come back tomorrow.”
“They’ve beat us on our field the last couple years, in fact,” Cahill said. “We’ve just got to come back tomorrow and put together a solid effort again, like we did today.”
The Red Devils — the lowest-scoring team of the three teams battling for the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division title entering the day — certainly put together a solid game on Monday, jumping out to a seven-run lead after two innings and giving starting pitcher Kenten Egbert plenty of support to finish off an 11-0 shutout of the Trojans in five innings at Market Street Field to kick off a critical two-game division series.
Tippecanoe (11-5, 9-1 GWOC American North) had been averaging only 5.8 runs per game coming in and had only hit double digits three times on the season, while Troy (10-4, 5-3 GWOC American North) had given up the least amount of runs — 3.2 per game — between themselves, the Devils and division-leading Butler and had not given up double-digit runs in a game to that point.
But the Devils came out on fire Monday and never let up.
A leadoff walk and a single by Ian Yunker put two runners on for Cade Beam, who blasted an RBI double off the left-center fence to give Tippecanoe the lead. C.J. Miller followed that with an RBI groundout, and the Devils led 2-0 after the top of the first.
“Throwing four straight balls to the first batter mentally set the pace for us today as a team,” Troy coach Ty Welker said. “That put our backs to the wall early, and they (Tippecanoe) swung the bats. We got behind in counts, they’re sitting fastball in fastball counts, and they did what you’re supposed to do with it.”
The Devils piled on in the second inning, adding five more to take a 7-0 lead. Matt Salmon reach on an error to lead off, Eli Hadden doubled and Andrew Baileys singled in a run. Jonny Baileys drew his second walk of the game to load the bases, Yunker drove in a run on an RBI groundout and Beam yanked an RBI single to left to make the score 5-0. A hit-batter reloaded the bases, and Nolan Mader hit a two-out, two-run single the other way to give the Devils a seven-run lead.
“I don’t know, honestly,” Cahill said when asked what led to the outburst. “We’ve seen a couple pitchers like (Troy’s Ethan) West this season. Maybe they understand the importance of where we are at this time of the year. The only way we can win the league is to win — Butler doesn’t have any league losses right now. If we lose today, we have two, Troy has two and Butler is sitting pretty with none still.”
West settled in and retired the Devils in order in the third, but after an RBI single by Egbert made it 8-0, the Trojans brought in Nathan Henderson. Mader followed with an RBI single, a run scored on a wild pitch and Hadden capped things off with an RBI double to make the score 11-0 Tippecanoe after the top of the fourth.
And that was more support than Egbert needed to finish things off on the defensive side.
Egbert — who led teammate Yunker 50-47 in the GWOC’s strikeouts race — scattered five hits, two walks and a hit-batter to finish off the shutout in five innings, adding only six more Ks to his totals.
“He’s a good pitcher,” Welker said. “We know we have to compete with a guy throwing strikes like that with that velocity. And I think our defensive side carried on to our offensive side. We found ourselves behind in counts because we didn’t swing at fastballs early — and that kid’s good.”
In the bottom of the first, Egbert got into a jam with runners on second and third with one out, but he got a pair of strikeouts to get out of it. And in the second, with Troy runners on first and second with no outs, he made a big play on defense on an attempted sacrifice bunt by Matt Bigley, getting off the mound fast enough to throw out the lead runner at third to keep — and then striking out the next two batters to again preserve the shutout.
“Troy’s a better hitting team than a lot of the teams he’s faced so far this year, so they put the ball in play,” Cahill said. “(The bunt) was a big play. If he doesn’t get that runner, they’ve got the bases loaded and it just takes a little break — you never know.”
Egbert got some help from his defense, as well. In the third, catcher Beam threw out a runner attempting to steal to end the inning. And in the fourth, Troy’s Weston Smith singled up the middle with runners on first and second with two outs — only to have center fielder Jonny Baileys throw out a runner at the plate to end the inning.
“Cade threw the kid out stealing to end one inning, then Jonny threw the kid out at the plate to end another. That’s what you’ve got to do at this time of the year,” Cahill said. “This is an inexperienced team, but now they’ve played 16 games. So they’re not so young anymore. They’re starting to get a little better presence.”
For Troy, Caleb Fogarty was 2 for 3, the only Trojan with multiple hits. West went 3 1-3 innings on the mound, allowing 10 runs on eight hits, three walks and a hit-batter while striking out two, and Henderson pitched the final 1 2-3 innings, allowing one run on three hits with one walk and one strikeout.
Beam was 3 for 3 with a double and two RBIs, Mader was 2 for 4 with three RBIs and Hadden was 2 for 3 with two doubles and an RBI to lead the Devils, with Andrew Baileys, Egbert and Yunker each also driving in one run.
The win sets up a crucial rematch Tuesday to finish off the series at Tippecanoe.
The past two seasons, the Devils have began the series with a win at Troy, only to lose at home the next day. Two years ago, Tippecanoe also run-ruled Troy 11-0 at Troy, only to lose 3-1 at home the next day. And last year, the Trojans run-ruled the Devils 11-0 on the road to split the series — and Tuesday’s game will feature a pitching rematch from that game, as well, with Troy’s Cole Brogan facing Tippecanoe’s Yunker.
“It’s just one day at a time, and we know who we’re facing tomorrow,” Cahill said. “Brogan shut us out last year, so we’ve got to have a totally different mindset when we come out tomorrow.”
“We’re not happy about the loss today by any stretch of the imagination,” Welker said. “In baseball, you’ve got to have a short memory. In this series, we’ve been lucky enough to do that the last couple years — and we’ll be ready to go out and compete tomorrow.”
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.