By Josh Brown
TROY — Troy had been waiting three games to put crooked numbers on the scoreboard again.
But Tippecanoe baseball coach Bruce Cahill had been waiting three years to see what he saw out of Bradley Calhoun.
After the Trojans took a 4-1 lead after three innings, the Red Devils’ junior starter settled down, allowing only two baserunners from that point on and finishing off a complete game victory. The Tippecanoe offense did the rest, scoring seven runs over the fourth and fifth innings to pull ahead for an 8-4 victory Saturday at Troy — the Devils’ 10th straight win.
Cahill ended his post-game conversation with his team with “I’d been waiting three years to see that.”
“For Brad to pitch the way he did,” Cahill said when asked what he was referring to. “I don’t know if he’s had a seven-inning complete game in his career. It started in the first inning when he struck out their No. 2 and 3 hitters with a runner on second. If we don’t make a couple errors, misjudge a fly ball, I don’t think he gives up an earned run. He got first-pitch strikes all day, and that was big.
“He wanted the seventh inning today, and I don’t know if that would’ve always been the case. He’s a junior, but he’s been on varsity all three years — and he grew up today.”
The Trojans (8-4), meanwhile, had entered the game on a three-game skid — and a 21-inning scoreless streak, with all three of those losses being shutouts. And though they grabbed a 4-1 lead early on, the Devils were able to capitalize on all four Troy errors in the game for a total of six unearned runs.
“We’ve got some issues we’re working through right now,” Troy coach Ty Welker said. “Six unearned runs — there’s just no excuse for that in a varsity baseball game. And a team like Tipp is going to take advantage of them.
“Until we can get out of our own way, we’re going to continue to struggle.”
Troy gave up one of those unearned runs in the top of the first as Aaron Hughes reached on a two-out error, stole second and was driven home on an RBI single by Justyn Eichbaum. But the Trojans answered with two of their own in the bottom of the second. Jake Daniel went to second base on a one-out error, then a Troy Moore infield single put runners on the corners. Alex Riedel took an RBI single the other way, then another run scored on an error on a high chopped that went through the second baseman’s legs, and Troy not only snapped a 22-inning scoreless streak but grabbed a 2-1 lead.
The Trojans added two more runs in the bottom of the third. Brandon Emery led off with a walk, and a Jared Bair double put runners on second and third with no outs. Austin Barney and Daniel hit back-to-back RBI sac flies, and Troy led 4-1 — a seemingly solid lead for Troy starter Hayden Kotwica, who only allowed two hits over the first three innings and struck out the side in the third.
“I thought we did a lot of things well offensively early,” Welker said. “We hit balls the other way, we hit sacrifice flies. We did all the little things. But then we got behind, and our whole approach changed. We gave him a six- or seven-pitch inning at one point. It was unbelievable.”
The Devils fought back in the top of the fourth. Brandon Gotthardt walked with one out, and a two-out error put runners on second and third. Another walk loaded the bases, then a wild pitch brought in the first run. Cole Barhorst hit an infield RBI single, and two more walks forced in the tying run, with Jacob Ambos getting the RBI, and the score was 4-4 with the Devils only getting one hit in the inning.
That changed in the fifth, though. Eichbaum led the inning off with his fourth home run of the season to give Tippecanoe the lead for good, then Gotthardt singled. An errant throw on a double play attempt put Calhoun on second with one out, and Trevor Staggs drove him in with an RBI single to knock Kotwica out of the game. But Josh Riebe and Barhorst hit back-to-back singles off of reliever Nick Matney to load the bases, and another errant throw on a double play attempt allowed to more runs to score, making it an 8-4 game.
“Eichbaum’s shot was big,” Cahill said. “That was his fourth of the year. It’s a great sign to see him hitting the way he is. We had 10 hits today, and out first and second guys didn’t have any. We hit from No. 4 on down, and that’s big for us. We had 17 hits on Thursday, so the kids are starting to feel good about the offense. Our at-bats have gotten a lot better.”
“We gave Kotwica a 4-1 lead, and then with two outs in an inning, we just faltered,” Welker said. “On a ground ball to shortstop, two runs score. That just can’t happen.”
Calhoun did the rest, allowing only a single by Drake McDonagh in the fourth and a double by Jordan Peck in the sixth. He threw a total of 33 pitches over the final three innings, including only seven in a one-two-three fifth, and he struck out two in the bottom of the seventh — including the final hitter of the game. Calhoun finished with seven strikeouts and one walk and allowed six hits.
Tippecanoe will look to extend its winning streak — and possibly the Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division lead — when it hosts Tecumseh Monday to begin a two-game series.
“We’ve got to make sure that we’re focused every day,” Cahill said. “We only have a one-game lead. We can’t worry about what Bellefontaine is doing. We’ve got to take care of our own business.”
Troy, meanwhile, travels to Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division rival Sidney on Monday looking to put an end to its skid.
“We’ve got to show up. We’ve got to get outs when they give them to us,” Welker said. “We’ve got to be aggressive at the plate, put the ball in play and put pressure on the other team — instead of the other way around. We’ve just got to fix some things and adjust.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.