By Josh Brown
TIPP CITY — An RBI triple by senior Jacob Ambos — that actually proved to be the game-winning RBI — may have inadvertently caused more work for the Tippecanoe baseball team.
In the end, though, it still worked out just the way the Red Devils needed it to.
Ambos drove in a run and scored another, fellow senior Brandon Gotthardt hit a long home run that kicked off a three-run sixth inning, and Ambos and Evan Ford combined on a three-hit shutout on the mound as Tippecanoe shut out future Greater Western Ohio Conference foe Piqua 6-0 on Senior Night Friday at Tippecanoe Middle School.
After hitting an RBI triple for the game’s first run in the bottom of the third and while tagging up to score an insurance run on a sac fly by Andrew Kraska, Ambos’ legs buckled, and he fell to the ground three feet away from home. He was still able to crawl forward and put his hand on the plate before the relay could get him, giving the Devils an early 2-0 lead.
“Yeah, I was freaking out,” Ambos said of the tumble. “I had no idea what was going on. My legs were a little wobbly after that triple, and they just kind of gave out.”
That’s what he told coach Bruce Cahill, also, giving Cahill an idea.
“I turned away, and when I turned back he was sprawled out on the ground,” Cahill said. “I didn’t know what had happened. He said his legs were tired after legging out that triple — and I said, oh, that means you’re not in shape. Maybe we should run more.
“The kids think we run too much … maybe we don’t run enough,” he added with a laugh.
After the Devils manufactured a run in the fifth with an RBI single by Kraska, Gotthardt led off the bottom of the sixth — and made sure he didn’t need to run hard at all. The senior, who had also doubled earlier, hammered the first pitch he saw over the scoreboard in left-center, a towering home run that gave Tippecanoe a 4-0 lead.
“That was big for him,” Cahill said. “Brandon’s an excellent hitter, except that he gets himself out a lot. If he swings at pitches in the zone, he’s incredible. He’s putting the work in, but it’s not about the physical stuff. It’s the mental part of hitting, being selective.
“When he’s hitting his pitches, he can really put a charge into the ball. He hit that double well earlier in the game, too.”
Clay Barhorst followed that with a triple and scored on an RBI single by Ford, who eventually scored on an RBI single by pinch hitter Clay Barney that made the score 6-0 Tippecanoe and basically sealed the win.
Especially the way the Devils’ pitchers were throwing.
The leadoff hitter reached in each of the three innings that starter Ambos pitched — but after that, he was untouchable. Cory Cottrell led off the game with a sharp double in the first, but a pair of flyouts and a strikeout left him stranded there. Derek Hite then led off the second with a single, but Ambos got another flyout and then a pair of strikeouts to end the inning.
And in the third, Rupert Delacruz reached on an error to lead off and was bunted to second, but Ambos got a called third strike for the second out, walked Travis Smith to put runners on first and second — and Delacruz was thrown out by catcher Cole Barhorst trying to advance to third on a pitch in the dirt to end the inning.
Ford then took over in the fourth and cruised from there, allowing a runner to reach on an error in the fifth and then a sixth-inning single to Derrick Gullett. In the seventh, the leadoff hitter reached on an error, another error put two runners on and an errant pickoff throw to first put runners on the corners with no one out — but a pair of called third strikes and a groundout put an end to the game.
“We came out kind of flat early,” Cahill said. “I thought we were ready to go, and outside of the errors in the seventh, I thought we finished the game strong. But three errors in the seventh — that kind of stuff drives me nuts.”
Ambos had four strikeouts and allowed one walk and two hits in three innings, while Ford allowed one hit, no walks and struck out seven. Combined, the two left six Indians stranded on base — three in scoring position — and of Piqua’s 11 strikeouts on the day, a whopping six of them were looking.
“Six called third strikes. The guys pitched well,” Cahill said. “Usually when you strike out 11 guys, you make the plays in the field, too. Last night, during Trevor Staggs’ no-hitter, we had 11 strikeouts and no errors. Tonight, we had 11 strikeouts and five errors. And the guys that don’t typically make them were the ones making them today. If you stay under two, you’re going to win most of your games — but we only allowed three hits today, which is why they didn’t hurt us.”
Piqua starter Smith lasted three innings, striking out four and walking one but allowing two hits and two earned runs. Blake Wright pitched a scoreless fourth but walked the first two batters of the fifth before exiting, walking three, striking out one and giving up one hit and one earned run. Zach Luttrell pitched an inning, giving up three runs on three hits, and Logan Harris finished the sixth, giving up one run on one hit and striking out two.
Both teams finish the regular season on Monday, with Piqua (10-13) traveling to Wayne and Tippecanoe (17-7) hosting Urbana. Piqua hosts Tecumseh in a first-round sectional tournament game on Tuesday. The Red Devils — the No. 1 seed in the Division II sectional — will face the winner between Urbana and Kenton Ridge on Thursday.
“This was a really big win, especially going into the tournament,” Ambos said. “Urbana’s going to be tough, and we can’t take them lightly. And if Kenton Ridge wins that game, we’re going to have to be ready. We beat them twice in the regular season, but that doesn’t mean anything now. We’ve got to be ready every day.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.