By Josh Brown
TROY — After its milestone season last year, Troy Post 43 baseball is ready to begin the next 50 years.
Post 43 began its 51st season over Memorial Day weekend at Duke Park, going 4-1 over the weekend to kick off play both as the traditional Troy Post 43 baseball and as the newly-minted Troy Legends travel team.
“We held eight tryouts last summer to find exactly the kind of players we had in 2015, when we were in the Ohio Legion State Championship and earned a trip to the Great Lakes National Regional — but the last two summers, we simply weren’t athletic enough. So we made a couple changes,” Troy Post 43 coach Frosty Brown said. “First, we recruited harder. Then, we decided to expand the ‘travel ball’ side of our program by taking on the name ‘Legends.’ Circleville Legion is now known as the ‘Panthers,’ Napoleon Legion are the ‘River Bandits,’ Midland Mich. Legion are called the ‘Raiders’ and so on. So, on the weekends, we will be the ‘Legends.’
“When we travel to Richmond, Kentucky, Indianapolis or Omaha, Nebraska and other weekend tournaments, we can use three or four additional players to better compete against the travel ball teams, whose rosters are fluid, who fly in ringers and who look at Legion ball as ‘second rate’ because they aren’t affiliated with a national organization.”
But just because Brown is expanding the program’s horizons doesn’t mean that he’s changing what’s at the heart of Troy Post 43.
“The one difference from our team than most travel teams is we will not add strangers to join us on the weekends,” he said. “We’ll be loyal to those players who made this team. So now we are simply the Troy Post 43 Legends.”
And since Brown knows how important pitching is every season, the team is bringing in a deep and varied pitching staff.
Ian Yunker (Tippecanoe), Troy Powers (Tippecanoe) and Chase Weaver (Troy) return as three of the team’s seven-man rotation. The team also added Kaleb Bowdle (Urbana), Brandon Wilson (Miami East), Jacob Francis (Jackson Center) and Jacob Arthur (Miami East). And coming out of the bullpen will be Jacob Duncan (Wayne), Matt Bigley (Troy), Nick Hundley (Greenon), Jacob Libecap (Troy), Adam Ott (Miami East), Ryan Heins (Sidney) and Elliott Seelig (Chaminade Julienne).
“We had several pitchers who had impressive outings for us last summer,” Brown said. “And they continued to improve and are a year older. Why so many (starters)? To survive in today’s baseball world with pitch-count restrictions, you need pitching depth.
“All of our starters are very capable pitchers, and I’m impressed every time I watch them. And we also have some very capable relievers with experience. We are very deep, which gives us options to change our look on the mound if the starter stumbles a bit. And we’ve also added two outstanding young pitching coaches in Trenton Wood and Logan Donovan.”
Catching that staff will be a trio of talented catchers, as well. Frank Gmuca (college freshman, Shawnee State) returns to the team, while Andy Wargo (Miami East) and Bowdle will add depth both behind the plate and at it.
On the infield, Trevor Collins (Franklin Monroe), Duncan and Weaver return at first base, with Libecap and Seelig new to the mix. Austin Kendall (Troy) is a solid second baseman, with Powers and Perry Casto (Bethel) in the mix. Fancis, Yunker and Casto are all also in the mix at shortstop, while third base will be patrolled by Wilson, Bigley and Hundley.
And in the outfield, Keaton Mohler returns, and Casto can play there, as well. Noah Brown (Northwestern) has great range in center and could be a leadoff hitter, while Austin Kloeker (Troy) returns to play either right or center. Yunker, Arthur, Adam Ott and Nick Miller will also see time.
“We have a good number of quality players, and we have a healthy and challenging schedule to use them all,” Brown said. “We can absorb injuries if we have to, and I am optimistic about this season because these guys seem to love the game.”
Post 43 got off to a slow start in the season’s first game against the brand new Van Wert Post 178 Legion team, holding Troy to only four hits in an 8-2 loss. Wilson had two hits and Gmuca had a double in the game as the team left eight runners stranded on base.
After the second game of the doubleheader was rained out, Troy returned to play Sunday witha four-run sixth inning to grab a 6-3 come-from-behind victory over Van Wert. Hundley had an RBI single to tie the score at 3-3, Yunker followed with a two-run double and Wargo hit an RBI single to put Post 43 on top, giving Wilson the win on the mound and Powers a save for pitching the seventh.
Post 43 finished off Sunday as Bowdle and Powers combined to pitch a two-hit shutout in a 4-0 victory over the Dayton Thunderbirds. Casto hit an RBI single then scored on a fielder’s choice and Kendall scored on a wild pitch during a three-run fifth to seal the win for Troy. Francis also doubled in the game.
And on Monday, Troy swept the Thunderbirds in a doubleheader, winning 10-0 in five innings and then 13-5. Francis pitched a five-hit shutout in the opener and Kendall had a double as the Legends took advantage of six walks in a 10-run bottom of the fifth. Finally, in the second game, Wargo homered and Noah Brown and Duncan each had a double to lead the way offensively, while three pitchers combined to shut down the Thunderbirds, with Duncan getting the win.
“This was a good weekend,” Brown said. “We got an opportunity to see everyone play, and overall we showed we have good depth. We had a fine defensive series with eight double plays in the five games, and we are starting to understand the system.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.