By Josh Brown
VANDALIA — After a couple of rough outings this season, Troy’s Ben Langdon felt he needed to do something.
So when he showed up for Monday’s regularly-scheduled start at Butler, the beard that he had sported throughout the season was gone.
The rain that day pushed that start to Wednesday — and Tuesday’s storms left the Trojans hanging trailing 2-1 in the top of the ninth inning against the Aviators, who the Trojans were tied with atop the Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division.
None of that weighed on Langdon, though. Going into Wednesday’s game a mountain of pressure — and one beard — light, he gave Troy exactly what it needed, holding Butler’s potent offense in check and giving the Trojan bats enough of a chance to start banging out clutch hit after clutch hit in an 11-6 victory at Butler.
“It was the shave,” Langdon said after the game with a laugh. “It was definitely the shave.”
Whatever the cause, Langdon and the Trojans (10-6, 6-1 GWOC North) weren’t dwelling on the missed opportunities from Tuesday night, or the fact that they still have to finish out that game, or even how badly that score meant they needed a win on Wednesday.
“When I saw Ben in the locker room earlier, and saw how at ease he was, I wasn’t worried,” Troy baseball coach Ty Welker said. “He was laid back, not tense at all, and that made me feel good.”
“I wasn’t thinking about it at all,” Langdon said of Tuesday’s game. “In fact, I was really proud of the team for how we all left that behind and moved on.”
The first inning began like Tuesday ended, though, with Troy leaving runners on base in the top of the inning and then a home run — this time by Dusty Lewis — putting the Aviators (12-7, 5-2 GWOC North) up 1-0.
But that quickly evaporated in the top of the second. Greg Johnson followed up a walk and an infield single by blasting a two-run double to the fence, and then Johnson scored on an RBI single by Trenton Wood to put the Trojans up 3-1.
“Mentality-wise, you worry after a situation like Tuesday,” Welker said. “If you walked by our dugout last night after the delay was called, it was as quiet as could be. But the kids came out today and did exactly what they were supposed to do.
“Even after that first inning, falling behind 1-0, we could have hung our heads. But we didn’t. We put the pressure on them and were definitely the aggressors.”
An infield single, a bloop single and a bunt single loaded the bases with no outs in Butler’s half of the third, though, but Langdon buckled down and kept the damage to a minimum. Lewis drew a bases-loaded walk and Alex Murphy drove in another run with a groundout to tie the score, but that was all Butler got.
Langdon threw six strong innings, giving up five hits, walking four and hitting a batter. All six runs were charged to him, but only four were earned. Ryan Lavy came in with the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the seventh to close things out.
“Ben finally had the night he’s been wanting to have,” Welker said. “You can’t say enough about the job he did today. He buckled down a threw a nice game — and he’s got a lot of those for us in his career.”
“I knew this game was very important,” Langdon said. “This was probably as big as the GWOC title game that I pitched as a sophomore.”
And in the top of the fifth, the Trojan bats held up their half of the bargain.
Nick Sanders led off with a walk, then a hit-and-run single by Wood put runners on the corners. Kevin McGraw — who had a huge day at the plate — followed with an RBI single to chase Butler starter Murphy, and from there the Trojans feasted on the Aviator bullpen. Dalton Cascaden, Collin Moeller and Zach Thompson had three straight RBI hits at in the inning, with Moeller’s being a double as Troy took a 7-3 lead.
Butler got one run back in the bottom of the fifth on a two-out error, but the Trojans went right back to work in the top of the sixth. Sanders again drew a leadoff walk to kick things off, Wood walked and McGraw blasted a two-run double to the gap in right-center. Alex Magoteaux followed with an RBI single on a squeeze bunt, and Thompson drove in his second run of the game with a sac fly to give Troy an 11-4 lead at the time.
With the win, Troy is now in line to win at least a share of the GWOC North title even if it doesn’t rally in today’s completion of Tuesday’s suspended game. The Trojans had a two-game series against Trotwood to close out GWOC North play next week and will clinch a share of the title if it can win those two games. Butler, meanwhile, finishes up with a series against Sidney on Monday and Tuesday.
The Trojans could still win it outright, though, if they can come back today — things will kick off at 5 p.m. at Market Street Field with Butler hitting with two outs in the top of the ninth and a runner on third base.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 440-5251 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.