By Josh Brown
PIQUA — In a new season, even the oldest of rivals can learn something about each other.
Troy Post 43 scored six runs over the first three innings to take charge early Wednesday night against rival Piqua, but Post 184 fought and clawed its way back into the game. In the end, though, that early cushion proved to be enough as Post 43 opened regular season district play with an 8-5 victory at Piqua’s Hardman Field.
“This was a good win for us,” Troy Post 43 coach Frosty Brown said. “We learned a lot about Piqua this year. We’re still learning ourselves, too. We’re not the complete package quite yet.”
One thing Troy learned was that Piqua doesn’t give up, even after falling behind 6-0. But Post 184 also learned that Post 43 is as tough as advertised.
“Troy’s a good team. They hit the ball, and they’ve got good pitching,” Piqua coach Jeff Jennings said. “Sure, these games are important in the regular season, but district is what’s really important. We’ll learn from this. The bottom line? We’ve just got to hit the ball.”
That was tough to do against Troy starter Trenton Wood.
Through the first four innings, Wood only allowed three baserunners — a one-out double by Jessie Wilson in the first and a walk and a single by Travis Smith in the second and fourth innings. Wilson reached third base on a groundout, but Piqua couldn’t get the clutch two-out hit to get him home.
And in the third and fourth innings, Wood struck out the side both times, with Smith’s two-out hit in the fourth being the only thing that broke up the consecutive punchouts.
Post 43, meanwhile, hit early and often — and even when they recorded outs, they proved to be productive ones.
Greg Peffley drew a walk from Piqua starter Gabe Wills to start the game, then Brandon Nesbitt singled to put two on. Wood yanked an RBI double up the hill to the fence in left field, then Ryan Lavy and Michael Hale hit back-to-back RBI sac flies to make it a 3-0 game. Singles by Jackson Ford and Cody Harsman and a walk by Adam Gunston loaded the bases, but Wills was able to get a grounder to escape without further damage.
Post 43 cashed in a leadoff infield single by Peffley in the second as Lavy ripped a two-out RBI double to the fence in right-center — but he was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple to end the inning. But in the third, Troy was right back at it as Hale led off with a single and Harsman and Gunston hit back-to-back singles to load the bases.
After an RBI single by Zach Kirby, Post 184 brought in Cameron Gordon as a reliever. Peffley hit an RBI sac fly to make it a 6-0 game, but Gordon got a flyout to end the threat — and shut Post 43 down for the most part from there.
“Our starter struggled, but that’s only the second game he’s thrown this season,” Jennings said. “His arm may have been bothering him, too. He didn’t have the velocity he had the other night. We just didn’t get him out quick enough. But Cam came in and kept us in the game. That’s just what he does. We just couldn’t get the hits after that.”
“We knew they were going to try to pitch Gordon tonight. We just forced them to bring him in a little earlier than they wanted to,” Brown said. “We hit the ball hard. When we hit it, we did so with authority, and that was nice to see.”
In the fifth, Piqua finally was able to break through. Dylan Arnold led off with a single and moved to third on a pair of grounders. Aaron Boerger broke up the shutout with a two-out RBI single, then Wilson hit a double to the right-center gap that brought Boerger in all the way from first.
Troy answered right back in the top of the sixth, though. Peffley singled to lead off, breaking Gordon’s run of retiring nine straight batters since entering the game. Nesbitt followed with a single, and with runners on the corners Wood ripped an RBI single through the defense. An RBI sac fly by Lavy — Post 43’s fourth run-scoring sac fly of the game — made the score 8-2.
Piqua continued to chip away, though. In the bottom of the sixth, Gordon led off with a single and stole second, then he came in to score on a pinch-hit RBI double. And in the seventh, Taylor Baumeister came in to score on an RBI groundout by Wilson, but Piqua left another runner stranded at third and the score remained 8-4.
In the eighth and ninth, Troy missed chances to add on runs by recording the final out at the plate both times. In the eighth, they failed to score on a delayed double steal, and then in the ninth Piqua right fielder Wilson relayed the ball to first baseman Frankie Quintero on another potential sac fly, and Quintero rifled it home to gun the runner down and keep it a four-run game.
“We’re still missing some signals,” Brown said. “And that was a poor double steal attempt there in the eighth. We’ve still got some things we’re working on.”
Boerger hit a one-out triple off of Post 43 reliever Lavy in the ninth and came in to score on another RBI groundout by Wilson, but Lavy got another grounder to end the game.
“We lost, but we didn’t quit,” Jennings said. “The kids kept battling after we fell behind. This team’s got the potential to do good things this year. We learned a lot about Troy tonight.”
Post 43 hosted Richmond Legion Thursday night in a game that was not complete at time of press. Troy plays host to the Miami Valley Veterans Memorial Tournament this weekend, beginning today at Duke Park.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.