They could have been better, and Ty Welker hopes they will be better. But good pitching, and ‘good enough’ defense, with just a bit of hitting, was enough to push Troy past Tecumseh in their tourney opener.
Troy – It wasn’t a thing of beauty – probably not the way Abner Doubleday drew it up when supposedly invented baseball.
In fact, it would be – and should be – concerning to most, when you open your tournament season with four errors on routine ground balls, with a pair of passed balls in the final inning to allow a couple of lackadaisical runs, and understand that baseball giveth, and baseball taketh away.
But it didn’t bother Troy pitcher Hayden Kotwica Tuesday, who worked the first six innings of the Trojans’ tourney opener with Tecumseh, scattering six hits, striking out six, and benefiting from enough offense (including a pair of hits of his own) to post a 7-3 win over the Arrows.
You see, the way it’s supposed to work is when you combine good pitching WITH good defense. They say that duo beats good hitting every time. Capital University-bound Kotwica did his part, while his defense has a couple of days now before their Thursday second round matchup with Fairborn to consider the errors of their ways.
“Actually, it didn’t bother me a bit, the errors,” said the slim Troy senior after Tuesday’s game. “That’s just baseball. Sometimes the ball gets batted around like that, but those are my teammates and I trust them behind me. I know there’s gonna’ be days when they pick me up.”
Whatever it was that got into the Trojans’ gloves was contagious. It got to both teams. Just consider the respective line scores:
Troy (15-10) won the game with 7 runs on 9 hits and 4 errors.
Tecumseh (11-16) lost with 3 runs on 8 hits and 4 errors.
And truthfully, the official scorer could have easily have tacked on a couple more (errors) for both teams. But that’s just baseball.
Whatever it was, Troy used it to their advantage on this day, scoring in every inning but the bottom of the sixth – 2 in the first, 1 in each of the second, third and fourth innings, and tacked on 2 more in the fifth.
Tecumseh scored first, an unearned run in the top of the first, benefiting from an error (what else) by second baseman Brandon Emory that allowed an unearned run. And with the game in hand, junior reliever Derek McDonagh ran into command issues in the top of the seventh, while catcher Keiran Williams allowed a pair of passed balls that contributed to two more unearned tallies. But that’s baseball. Or is it, when it’s ‘one and done’ season?
“I don’t think it was a matter of being tight, or nervous,” said Ty Welker. “We seemed fine before the game. But truthfully, this is a young team and we’ve shown glimmers of inconsistency throughout the year. We’ve got two sophomores and two juniors starting on the infield, but we’re done with those excuses and the experience we have at this point should take care of those things.”
Kotwica, who professes that he NEVER looks at stats – and has no idea what his record is for the season – was as good as his word about trusting his infielders. He was “tournament good”, throwing first-pitch strikes, working ahead, and commanding a devastating curveball. Jim Hardman used to say about it (the curve), “Turn back the sheets, Ma. They’re throwing curves today”, and for Tecumseh’s part, they were all in bed together. Of the eighteen outs that Kotwica recorded, all but four were either strikeouts or balls pounded into the ground.
“He was good, he really battled,” added Welker. “He threw a lot of first-pitch strikes. He doesn’t throw 90 (mph), but he competes and that was the difference for us in the game today, despite our defense. The most impressive thing we did was score at least one run in every inning except the sixth. If you can do that it makes it a whole different game when you get to the seventh. If we can do that we’re going to be pretty hard to beat because we have pitchers who battle and we usually play pretty good defense.”
For a team that started the year 1-6, their turnaround has to be attributed to something, and Hayden Kotwica points to – despite Tuesday – the Trojans’ ability to pitch and play defense.
“I think we have enough pitching to keep going,” he added. “We’ve got nine guys on the team that can throw, who can throw strikes, and in high school baseball that’s all you need to do. You throws strikes, you get some ground balls and fly outs, and then a couple of hits here and there to score a couple of runs. If you can do that,” he said with grin, “you’ll be OK.”
Well, they were as good as his word on Tuesday, but they’d like to be better when they face Fairborn on Thursday, at Fairborn, with sophomore Cole Brogan on the mound.
“We put a plan together to where we played some tough teams early,” says Welker. “And because of that we’ve been in some tough games, faced good pitching, and I think it’s prepared us for where we are now. We love a great record, but when we were 1-6 a lot of learning took place and it’s showing now. We’ve split with Vandalia and Tipp City and those are two very good teams.
“We’ll be ready to play Fairborn. Cole Brogan will pitch for us because he’s battled a lot of teams this year. His record is only 3-3 but he battles. Nothing flashy, not a lot of strikeouts, just throws strikes.”
Hayden Kotwica says that’s all you need. He swears by it. He did it Tuesday. Follow the plan.
And…trust in your teammates!