By Josh Brown
TROY — A few too many days off had Troy Post 43 off to a shaky start.
The Miami Valley Prospects, meanwhile, took advantage of some free chances that were handed to them.
So Troy did what it’s done all season so far — battled and found a way.
Troy was able to survive giving away a combined 10 free passes — seven walks and three hit-batters —and a four-run third inning by Miami Valley, keeping pace throughout and then breaking through with a four-run bottom of the eighth as Post 43 improved to 8-2 on the season with a come-from-behind 9-6 victory over the Prospects Tuesday night at Duke Park.
Post 43 found its way out of trouble three times throughout the game by turning double plays. After starter Zach Greenwald walked and hit the first two batters of the game, second baseman Michael Hale and shortstop Greg Peffley turned a 4-6-3 double play to erase the threat. And in the second inning, a leadoff walk and a one-out walk again gave the Prospects a chance — but Hale made a catch in foul territory down the first-base line then gunned out the lead runner trying to tag and advance to third for an inning-ending double play.
“We gave out 10 freebies tonight. They didn’t really hit us, but we were giving too much away,” Troy Post 43 coach Frosty Brown said. “But we’ve been doing that all year — we’ve probably turned seven or eight double plays before tonight’s game even began. We’ll get a big catch or run a ball down or get a line drive that turns into a double play.”
And after leaving runners stranded on second and third in the bottom of the first, Troy took the lead in the bottom of the second any way it could. Cody Harsman hit a one-out double and advanced to third on a single by Jackson Ford, then Zach Kirby dropped down a perfect suicide squeeze bunt to drive in the game’s first run.
“That’s what we do — we battle people, and we run the bases smart,” Brown said. “We executed a delayed squeeze to perfection again. We’ve been playing a lot of small ball lately until we get our bats going.”
In the top of the third, though, Troy’s testing fate finally caught up with it.
Two walks to start the inning chased Greenwald, and Michael Cookson hit the first two batters he faced to tie up the score. Seth Pritchett then hit a three-run double just out of the reach of a diving Troy center fielder to give the Prospects a 4-1 lead. Two one-out walks reloaded the bases, but Cookson was able to get a strikeout to finally get out of the jam.
Cookson was solid over the next three innings, as well, not walking anyone else, striking out five more and giving up only three hits and one run.
Troy, meanwhile, fought its way back into the game.
Ryan Lavy led off the fourth with a single and Greg Johnson hit a one-out double to put runners on second and third, and Ford brought them both in with a two-out single up the middle to make it a 4-3 game. And then, with Miami Valley leading 5-3 in the bottom of the sixth, Hale hit a one-out double and Johnson reached on a dropped fly ball in center, again putting runners on second and third. Harsman then drove both runners in with a double off the fence in left, and the game was tied 5-5.
That’s the way the game stayed through seven innings as Post 43 continued to struggle to take advantage of all of its chances. To that point, the team left seven runners on base and struck out 10 times — nine of those with runners on base.
“We had cut down on our strikeouts recently, but we got rained out last Thursday, had two days off for the Strawberry Festival and were rained out again Monday,” Brown said. “Tonight, the strikeouts were back up, including too many looking.”
Reliever Chris Heisey got out of a jam in the top of the seventh after issuing a pair of walks as a lineout to Peffley turned into an inning-ending double play. But in the top of the eighth, a series of infield singles led to ab RBI infield single by Connor Burton that scored Jared Rindler and put the Prospects up 6-5.
But after battling all night long, Post 43 finally won the war in the bottom of the eighth.
Lavy doubled to lead off the inning, went to third on a wild pitch and tied the score at 6-6 as the Miami Valley catcher threw the ball away. Johnson then drew a walk, stole second and advanced to third on another errant throw by the catcher, and Harsman worked a walk to put runners on the corners with one out.
Ford came through again, giving Troy the lead with an RBI single, then with two outs Ethan Garland put the game out of reach with a sharp two-run single to left that made it 9-6.
“Ford’s been doing that a lot lately (coming through in the clutch),” Brown said. “He gets the big hit to give us the lead, then our young guy Ethan punches in two more.
“We’re doing things right. I like to go in with a gameplan because it’s better to have an idea of what you’re doing. Sometimes you can tear it up and throw it out after the second inning, but sometimes, if you stick to it, good things can happen.”
Heisey shut the door in the top of the ninth, giving up only a two-out single but inducing a forceout by the next batter to end the game and earn the win. In three innings of work, he struck out one, walked two and gave up three hits and a run.
Ford had the big night at the plate, going 3 for 4 with three RBIs. Harsman was 2 for 3 with a pair of doubles and two RBIs and Lavy was 2 for 4 with a double and two runs scored.
Post 43 traveled to Piqua Post 184 Wednesday night in a game that was not complete at time of press (editor’s note: look in Friday’s Troy Daily News for a full report). Troy hosts Richmond Legion tonight before the beginning of the Miami Valley Veterans Memorial Tournament on Friday.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.