Greg Billing|Press Pros Magazine - https://bit.ly/3ouGz7x
VANDALIA – High school baseball games during the regular season offer free admission. That said, a donation wouldn’t have been out of the question following the Miami Valley League clash between the Troy Trojans and Butler Aviators on Friday.
This one was so good that seven innings couldn’t contain it. And in the end, likely the shortest hit of Troy senior Owen Harlamert’s career resulted in the biggest blow.
Harlamert’s safety-squeeze bunt provided the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th and senior Eli Donnan followed with a two-run double, good for a 5-2 victory over the Aviators on their home field. Harlamert, a .320 hitter with 13 RBI this season, said his last bunt might have been two years ago.
“Yeah, definitely the shortest hit I’ve had,” Harlamert said. “I tried to stay in my head and get it down. Just try to get it down knowing the guys behind me will get it done. … This is one of our biggest games every year. We all battle for it.”
It took some extra-innings effort … but the Trojans responded. Caleb Akins led off the 10th with a double to left. He advanced to third on a passed ball. With one out Butler elected to intentionally walk Hayden Frey to set up a potential double play. Harlamert then dropped his bunt toward the first-base line. Butler catcher Josh Morris gloved the high bounce a couple feet from home plate, turned and dove toward home a tad too late to get Akins.
“Coach told me see it down (before going),’’ Akins said. “I saw the bunt go down and I took off. There wasn’t more to it.”
Troy (8-4, 7-1 MVL) then loaded the bases when Matt Hempker was hit by a pitch. After a strikeout, Donnan ripped a double down the left-field line to score Frey and Harlamert. Troy coach Ty Welker waved Hempker home but the throw home was waiting for him at the plate.
Butler (8-3, 4-2 MVL) put two runners on in the bottom of the 10th with Cayden Borchers’ one-out single and Brody Miller’s hit by pitch. Jacob Lucas struck out the next two batters. Lucas combined with starter Frey and reliever Trayce Mercer to scatter 10 hits.
Frey allowed seven hits, two runs (one earned), struck out seven and walked one in four innings. He also hit a batter. Trayce Mercer allowed one hit, struck out four and walked two in four innings. Lucas allowed two hits and struck out five the final two innings.
“I trust everyone who comes in behind me. I’m good with coming out because I know the guys behind me will throw strikes like they did tonight,” said Frey, who didn’t feel any jitters getting the start on the road Friday. “Honestly, I like throwing more on the road. Warming up I felt really good. … It’s just a feel. The bus ride and getting ready for it.”
As for Mercer, he entered the game after Butler opened the fourth with two straight singles. A sacrifice moved both runners up. Mercer then ended the threat with a strikeout and groundout to first.
“(Frey’s) had a good season so far and he had a nice off-season. He’s ready to be in that (lead) role for us,” Welker said. “To be a sophomore throwing against Butler at Butler, that shows you we trust what he can do and we believe in him.
“We knew we had Mercer ready to go. That kid’s a bulldog. He went in and shut it down. He didn’t want me to take him out in the inning I did take him out. Lucas has ice in his veins as well. We know we have a pitching staff to do things like that. It doesn’t have to be one guy. It’s tough for high school kids to understand sometimes because they want to be the man all the time. We have a pitching staff and we try to manage it the best we can.”
Butler’s trio of starter Cayden Borchers (five hits, two runs, two strikeouts, two walks in three innings) and relievers Jordan Taylor (two hits, four strikeouts in 3.1 innings) and Hunter Richardson (here hits, three runs, three strikeouts, one walk in 3.2 innings) were also effective.
Taylor entered in the top of the fourth after Troy loaded the bases with two singles and a walk. He gave up a sharp RBI single to center before leaving the bases loaded with a strikeout, fly out to center and strikeout looking.
“I thought our pitchers did a good job,” Butler coach Trent Dues said. “Troy scratched some runs across at the end. We had opportunities and we couldn’t come through with those guys on and Troy did tonight.”
Troy led 1-0 in the second inning on Hempker’s RBI single that scored Frey, who led off with a single. Butler tied it in the bottom half. Austin Flohre led off with a single and later scored on an error.
Troy took a 2-1 lead in the top of the fourth on Eli Smith’s RBI single to score Frey. Butler again responded in the bottom of the inning when Jayden Watkins led off with a double and scored on Taylor’s RBI single.
Troy stranded nine baserunners and Butler 14.
The win keeps Troy atop the MVL standings at 7-1. Greenville and Tippecanoe also entered Friday with one league loss. It’s also a welcomed win following a tough road trip to Georgia for Spring Break. Troy dropped a pair of games to out-of-state competition… albeit by a combined five runs … and also lost to Coldwater 4-2 on April 8.
“We had a few rough games in Georgia so we needed this confidence booster,” Akins said. “When we all play to our absolute best we’re really good. I don’t think we’ve played close to our best game yet.”
They’ll give it another shot Monday when Butler comes calling to Market Street Field for the rematch.
“Two good teams. Great ball game. Beautiful night,” Dues said. “Hopefully we can get the big hit Monday.”