By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
CENTERVILLE — Troy baseball coach Ty Welker ensured that his team played as tough a schedule as possible this season in preparation for matchups like Tuesday’s.
In the end, though, the Trojans simply couldn’t overcome division rival Butler’s habit of doing all of the little things.
Cooper Harested hit a two-out RBI double in the bottom of the fourth and Zach Fults laid down an RBI squeeze bunt in the bottom of the sixth — both times after the Trojans had cut the fourth-seeded Aviators’ lead to one — and Aviator reliever Cam Miller retired the final seven batters he faced, getting out of a fifth-inning jam and preserving a 4-2 win over No. 5 Troy in the Division I sectional final Tuesday at Centerville High School.
Butler (23-6) moves on to face Mason in Thursday’s district final at Kings High School. Troy, meanwhile, saw its season end at 20-8 — the most wins the Trojans have had in a season since winning 22 in 2015.
“It was a tremendous season,” Welker said. “We’re just unfortunate to be playing in a division with a team that’s very hot this year. I think that, if you talk to (Butler) coach (Trent) Dues, he’d say he definitely got as much if not more than he expected out of those guys. Those guys are deserving of winning a league title and getting to go to the district finals. That unfortunately overshadows our season.
“We had 20 wins — that’s the second-most wins we’ve had in my 14 years here. We beat three defending state champions, two current No. 1s in the state, Centerville, which I think is a top-five team in the state in D-I. Teams knew that, when we showed up, we showed up ready to compete.”
Those three state champions were the reigning D-II state champion, Chaminade Julienne, the reigning D-IV state champion, Fort Loramie — which Troy defeated 6-5 on Saturday, snapping the Redskins’ 32-game winning streak in the process — and Gross Pointe South from Michigan.
“We went 20-8, and that’s probably one of the best winning percentages we’ve had since I’ve been here. And that’s a credit to these 11 seniors,” Welker said. “I don’t know how many teams have three defending state champions on their schedule. We give it to these guys every year — we don’t play a cake schedule, and that’s because these kids deserve it, with their work ethic and what they do in the offseason.”
Still, the Trojans simply couldn’t solve Butler, which swept them in the regular season 10-7 and 10-0 heading into Tuesday’s matchup. This time, though, Troy played its best game of the three against the Aviators and battled to the end.
Butler took control in the bottom of the first as Miller singled and stole second, followed by a bunt single by Cody Borchers to put runners on the corners. Boston Smith hit into an RBI fielder’s choice, stole second and moved to third with two outs on a groundout by Qunton Hall — which proved to be a huge productive out, as Smith scored on a wild pitch to put Troy in a 2-0 hole after one.
“After we gave up those two runs, I thought ‘here we go again,’” Welker said, referring to how the team fell behind big against Butler in the first two meetings. “But Cole (Brogan) pitched a great game, and the defense played great. That’s a credit to Brogan and the defense.
“We were just vulnerable in some areas, and they figured that out. That’s what good teams do. They didn’t surprise us with anything they did. They got five out of six leadoff hitters on, and they are the team they are because they get leadoff hitters on. Once they get a guy on, it changes the game. And we know that.”
The score remained 2-0 through three, then Troy finally fought back in the fourth.
Jacob Adams drew a walk to lead off, Braeden Snider bunted him to second and he took third on a wild pitch with one out. Brogan followed that with his second hit of the day, a sharp RBI single to left field to cut Butler’s lead to 2-1. He then stole second to put a runner in scoring position, and with two outs Noah Dimel rifled a single back up the middle. But Butler center fielder Miller came up firing and threw out the potential tying run at the plate, leaving the score 2-1.
Butler got that run back in the bottom of the inning on Harested’s two-out RBI double, but Troy answered again in the fifth inning. Matt Bigley walked to lead off and was bunted to second by Weston Smith, which prompted a pitching change as Miller took over for starter Borchers. Caleb Fogarty walked and Austin Kendall drove an RBI single to left-center field to again make it a one-run game. Adams then grounded into a fielder’s choice to put runners on the corners with two outs, but Miller got a strikeout to end the threat and keep Butler on top.
“We left a few guys in scoring position, but we also got a couple bunts down when we needed to and stole some bases,” Welker said. “After we gave up those two runs in the first, we showed up, we competed, we battled. We had the tying run thrown out a the plate once, we left the tying run in scoring position later. At least we gave ourselves chances.”
From there, Miller was untouchable, retiring the final eight batters of the game — including a one-two-three final inning on only four pitches to end it. He finished with three strikeouts, one walk and one hit in 2 2-3 innings of relief to get a save, while Borchers got the win, lasting 4 1-3 innings and allowing two runs on four hits and three walks with three strikeouts. And the Aviators tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth on Fults’ RBI squeeze bunt for the game’s final score.
Brogan finished his career with one last solid effort on the mound, pitching a complete game and allowing four runs on seven hits and one walk with two strikeouts. He and Kendall were also both 2 for 3 with one RBI apiece to lead the Trojans at the plate.
It was a tough ending for a team that accomplished so much — but Welker will miss the players themselves more than any wins or losses.
“These 11 seniors, heck, all 14 players on the roster, they have all been in situations at some point in the year where the game was on the line,” Welker said. “Whether on the mound or at the plate or in the field, somewhere in those 20 wins they all had to make a play when the game was on the line. I’ve never had a roster where, maybe they didn’t have the at-bats or innings they wanted, but they all were in a situation where the game was on the line — and we believed in each and every one of them in those situations. With the schedule we had? I’ll take that any year.”
• D-II Sectional
MIAMISBURG — Third-seeded Tippecanoe had outscored its opponents 32-0 in the first two rounds of the Division II sectional tournament.
Tuesday, the Red Devils finally ran into a pitcher that could slow them down.
Tytus Tussey pitched a five-hitter for second-seeded Franklin, striking out seven, allowing only one earned run and outdueling Tippecanoe’s Kenten Egbert in a 2-1 loss by the Devils in the D-II sectional final Tuesday at Miamisburg High School.
Egbert was his typical solid self for Tippecanoe, striking out eight and allowing two runs on five hits as runs were at a premium on the day. Franklin scored both of its runs in the top of the first inning, though, and the Devils simply could never get the tying run across.
Jonny Baileys doubled and scored Tippecanoe’s only run on an RBI single by J Dietz in the top of the third. In the top of the fourth, Eli Hadden and Matt Salmon hit back-to-back two-out singles, but Tussey got a groundout to leave the tying run in scoring position and retired the final 13 batters he faced to close out the game.
Franklin (24-6) moves on to face Fenwick in Thursday’s district final, also at Miamisburg High School. Tippecanoe’s season comes to an end at 17-11.
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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