By Josh Brown
TROY — A pitcher’s duel, complete with a stellar defensive play to end it.
Rallying from a five-run deficit to win late.
Whichever way is necessary to win, the Troy baseball team showed that it was capable of doing it.
The Trojans (2-0) opened the season with a doubleheader sweep of visiting Oakwood Saturday at Market Street Field, with Jordan Peck pitching a complete-game shutout — and getting help from a game-ending double play on an outfield assist from Hayden Kotwica — in a 1-0 victory in the opener. And in the second game, Troy fell behind 4-0 after the top of the first and trailed by as many as five before a three-run triple by Brandon Emery tied the score in the fifth and a homer by Austin Barney gave them lead in the sixth in an 11-8 come-from-behind win.
“We won two games two completely different ways today,” Troy coach Ty Welker said. “Jordan Peck threw a really nice game to start us off, and we played pretty good defense behind him. And in the second game, we showed that we can get behind and still win. I’d rather not be in that situation, but we did get behind, and the guys didn’t hang their heads. They just kept chugging away, fought the whole game and came through in the end.”
Peck, a senior, only allowed three hits and a walk in the opener, striking out seven. He got all the run support he’d end up needing in the second inning as Alex Riedel — who had two of the Trojans’ five hits — scored on an RBI groundout by Tyler Lambert.
Oakwood (0-2) got the leadoff batter on in the top of the seventh, and he stole second on a strikeout to get into scoring position. But the next batter flew out to Kotwica in center — who fired it to Reidel at third. The Lumberjacks’ runner had gotten a late start attempting to tag up, and the throw beat him to the base for a game-ending double play.
“That was a nice way to end the first game,” Welker said. “In a close game like that, every single play matters. And that was a great play, a great throw by Kotwica. Something like that lets our pitchers know that they can trust the defense.”
One problem that carried over from the first game to the second, though, was leaving runners on base in run-scoring situations.
“We left a lot of guys in scoring position,” Welker said. “Sometimes even a ground ball somewhere can score you a run — like Lambert’s. No one got the big hit in that game, though, and we ended up leaving guys in scoring position a lot in both games.”
The Jacks jumped on top to start the second game, plating four runs in the top of the first against Troy starter Kotwica. After a leadoff hit-by-pitch, Alex Neff and Brock Gorman hit back-to-back RBI doubles, Jackson Jennings drove in another run with a two-out single and a fourth run came in on a passed ball.
The Trojans answered with two in the bottom of the inning thanks to an RBI single by Jared Bair and an RBI double off the base of the fence in left by Barney to cut the lead in half. But Troy stranded runners on second and third in the next inning and a runner on third in the third, and the Jacks held onto their 4-2 lead.
Oakwood made it a 6-2 game with a pair in the fourth as Neff and Gorman again brought in runs on back-to-back hits, but the Jacks gave one right back in the bottom of the inning on a two-out run-scoring error. A run-scoring error by Troy and an RBI double by Brian Erbe in the top of the fifth, though, gave the Jacks their biggest lead of the game at 8-3.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Trojans changed everything.
Riedel led off the inning with a single and advanced to third on a pair of wild pitches, but Oakwood starter Nolan Hamilton recorded two straight outs and looked ready to get out of the inning. An RBI infield single by Kieran Williams kept the rally alive, though, then Jacob Adams reached on an error and Drake McDonagh drove in a run with a single up the middle to cut the lead to 8-5 and force a pitching change. Kotwica drew a walk to load the bases.
Brandon Emery fell behind in the count 0-2 — but the Oakwood catcher dropped a foul pop that could have ended the inning. Given new life, Emery worked the count full and then laced a bases-clearing triple down the line in right field to tie the score.
“It makes a difference,” Welker said of the at-bat. “They hung their heads a bit, and we jumped on it. We always talk about taking advantage of situations, like that dropped pop. That’s a big deal.”
Reliever Troy Moore, who entered the game in the fifth, got out of a jam and left runners stranded on second and third in the top of the sixth, and with one out in the bottom of the sixth Barney gave the Trojans their first lead of the game by yanking the first pitch he saw over the fence in left to make it 9-8.
“Austin’s a free swinger,” Welker said. “He likes those fastballs, and he’s not going to watch many of those go by.”
Three walks an a strikeout later, Kotwica dropped a two-out, two-run double on the line in left field to give the Trojans a bit of insurance, and Moore recovered from hitting the leadoff batter in the top of the seventh and struck out the final two batters of the game to wrap up the sweep.
“Kotwica struggled a bit early but threw well enough for us to stay in the game,” Welker said. “And Troy is able to throw strikes with his big curve early in the count and get ahead of hitters. We played pretty good defense today — we tell our pitchers to throw strikes, let them hit it and let our guys play defense.”
The Trojans will be on the road all week, taking a trip to Georgia for a series of games beginning Tuesday. They will return to Ohio Saturday and travel to Springfield Shawnee, and Troy’s next home game is not until April 8 against Greenville.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.