They combined 11 hits, 11 runs, and a dominating pitching performance Monday to prove that the 2017 Tipp Red Devils are to be taken seriously. The question is…what makes this Tipp team different, or better, than teams of the past?
Troy – After 11 runs and 11 hits in five innings, and a dominating pitching performance Monday by senior Aaron Hughes, there was little question in the Troy Trojans dugout about whether the Tipp Red Devils 16-3 record (10-0 in GWOC North play) is for real.
In fact, one of the regulars that sits on the edge of the parking lot for Trojan home games was heard to say, as he gathered up his folding lawn chair and made for the car, “You know, Tipp City is pretty good.”
That, perhaps, is an understatement. Or is it?
Tipp has had great teams for years under the leadership of Bruce Cahill, running through the Central Buckeye Conference, the sectional round of the tournament, and multiple times winning the district title. Six times they taken Cahill to the regional round of the tournament…but only once to the regional finals, and of course, never to Columbus! So yes, this Red Devil team, currently tied with Vandalia Butler for the GWOC North lead, is pretty good. But is it, in context, good enough?
Well no argument from Ty Welker’s Trojans on Monday, as Tipp scored three in the first inning (on three hits), one in the second (on 2 hits), 2 in the third (on two hits), three more in the fourth (on three hits), and capped their run-rule win with a pair of runs in the top of the fifth. The final in five was 11-0, with Red Devils running around the bases everywhere, like one of those baseball pinball machines.
No fewer than five Tipp hitters had a multiple-hit game off Troy starter Cole Brogan and reliever Jacob Adams: Andrew Kraska (2 hits and three runs scored), Aaron Hughes (2 hits and two runs scored), Justin Eichbaum (2 hits and two runs scored), Trevor Staggs (3 hits and a run scored), and Brad Calhoun (2 hits and he was left in scoring position twice).
“We’ve hit like this all year,” said Aaron Hughes, a leading candidate for most ‘affable’ in 2017, as well as ‘most determined’ for his fight to come back from a serious labrum injury to his non-throwing shoulder. He was excellent on the mound Monday, giving up just four hits, striking out three against one walk…and he stalled Troy’s only threat in the first inning when he retired the third out with the bases loaded.
“It’s nice to have that kind of run support when you go to the mound,” he admitted. “Before the year we thought we were just going to have great pitching, but we’ve showed that we can really hit, too. This year there’s not just one or two guys hitting, but the whole lineup can hit. If one guys has an off day there’s two, three, or four other guys that step up and have good day. It makes it look like we’re a really good team.”
Hughes smiles a lot. And he should. Anyone who overcomes a threatening shoulder injury like he has SHOULD smile a lot.
“It really hasn’t affected my pitching arm,” he explains. “Just my hitting. At the beginning of the year in Florida I really wasn’t cleared to swing yet, so I just bunted all the time. But I’ve worked to get stronger and my hitting feels better every day now.”
For Cahill, there’s a sense of deja-vu, his current team reminiscent of so many from the past.
“The difference is that on Friday we faced the Webb kid at Fairborn, who’s going to Toledo next year,” said Bruce. “In the first inning he struck the side on 10 pitches. I wanted to see what adjustments we could make to that kind of fastball. By the time Clay Barhorst hit an inning later he had a terrific 13-pitch at bat. He wore the kid down. It was amazing, and by the third inning he had already lost about 5 miles per hour off his fastball and we started getting after him. There’s a difference with these guys and how they approach things. Plus, we’ve got guys on the bench who can come in and hit, so we’ve got competition for at bats and that’s probably the best thing of all for us this year.”
They’ve won five of the last six district titles, but have struggled to bust through once they reach the regional round of the tournament. The question posed: Are they due, or even…overdue?
“We’ve gotten to the regional finals once, the year Carter Langdon and Cam Johnson were seniors,” says Cahill. “This is another good team, but when you get to that point in the tournament one good pitcher can shut you down. Are we overdue? I don’t know. This is one of those years when you try to figure out the toughness of your kids, because I think there has to be some of that to get as far as you want to go.”
Which goes a long way in determining how this Tipp team measures up with teams of the past. They play Butler next week, home and home on Monday and Tuesday. Both are undefeated in the league, and both Cahill and Butler’s Trent Dues will be looking for the same measuring stick. They’ve both had their issues with getting as far as they’ve wanted to get in the past.
“But we’ve got to get through this week first,” cautioned Cahill as he packed for the bus trip back to Tipp. They play Troy again tomorrow at Clawson Field, in Tipp, and know that Monday’s score is anything but a sure things against the 9-10 Trojans (5-6 in the league).
But for now give them their due. Yeah…Tipp City, from what we’ve seen, is pretty good!