By Josh Brown
OMAHA, Neb. — Troy Post 43 Legends coach Frosty Brown intended his team’s trip to the Locker Room College World Series Tournament to be a learning experience.
It proved to be an eye-opening trip for many of the Legends.
Troy was outscored 33-19 during the trip to Omaha, Nebraska during last week’s College World Series, dropping the first three games of the Locker Room CWS Tournament before pulling off a thrilling one-run win in the fourth game against the Branson (Missouri) Pirates, dropping the finale to return home after going 1-4 on the weekend.
“Our trip to the Omaha Locker Room CWS Tournament was successful in some ways and a little frustrating in others,” Brown said. “First, it’s an opportunity to play excellent competition and attend the CWS games in our spare time. It helps serious ballplayers realize what kind of amazing baseball talent is out there. It helps set a standard that they can hopefully also obtain.
“The other good part is that players realize many of the things we teach are needed to compete against this kind of talent. The frustrating part is seeing us occasionally learn the hard way. Pitchers getting behind in the count and getting touched up a bit or hitters not loading earlier enough to read the pitch … they quickly find out they pay the price when they face people headed to Vanderbilt or Iowa or that were drafted by the MLB. Good lessons … but tough lessons.”
Troy began the tournament on June 20 by taking on Millard North, falling 4-2. Ian Yunker had a strong outing on the mound, striking out eight and not giving up any earned runs — but errors in the second and third innings cost the Legends. Brandon Wilson and Keaton Mohler each had three hits in the game.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Millard — their pitcher, Bo Wellington, is an All-Nebraska kid and got six strikeouts at opportune times, leaving eight of our runners stranded,” Brown said.
Then on Thursday, the Legends began the day by facing the Bismark (ND) Governors — their state’s defending Legion champion — and falling 6-1. Troy Powers and Chase Weaver combined on the pitching effort.
“I was very impressed with their hitters, because they fought with two strikes,” Brown said. “And Mark Feeney is a 16-year-old phenom for Bismark that struck out 12 — he’s a name to remember. Definitely a quality prospect.”
Later that night, Troy Post 43 took an early lead, gave up a 10-run third inning to fall behind and rallied late, coming up just short against the Oklahoma City Mustangs in a 12-11 loss.
Kaleb Bowdle put Troy on top with an RBI sac fly, then Nick Hundley and Keaton Mohler executed a double steal to score another run and Andy Wargo followed with an RBI single to make it a 3-0 lead. The Mustangs answered with two in the second, but Mohler tripled and scored on a fielder’s choice to make it 4-2 Troy after two.
In the third, though, the Mustangs strung together eight hits, including three-run homers by Vaderbilt recruit Marcus Fulton and Mr. Oklahoma Trey Glass, to take a 12-4 lead.
“I kept thinking we were just one pitch away since we had two outs, but balls fell in for them and slow rollers were beaten out, setting up the two bombs,” Brown said. “Most teams would have given up after that, but I’m so proud of this team because we fought back.”
Jacon Duncan pitched the next three innings and kept the deficit from growing. But Troy loaded the bases in the fourth, got one run in on a walk and then Austin Kendall ripped a three-run triple down the line to empty the bases and cut the lead to four. Wilson drew a two-out walk and Bowdle hit a two-run single to make it 12-10 — which was where things remained going into the seventh.
Noah Brown doubled, took third on a passed ball and scored on a fielder’s choice to cut the lead to only one. And error and a stolen base put the tying run in scoring position, but the Mustangs were able to get a pop up to end the game.
“Taking the Mustangs into the last inning like that showed what we are capable of,” Brown said.
The Legends showed even more on Friday, taking on the Branson (Missouri) Pirates and getting the winning run in the final inning to claim a 5-4 victory.
Kendall walked and stole second and third base, then Mohler walked and stole second to put two runners in scoring position, with an RBI groundout by Wilson making it 1-0 Troy after one. After the Pirates tied it up, an RBI single by Weaver in the top of the second gave the lead back to Troy, and an RBI sac fly by Kendall made it 3-1. Branson answered with a run in the bottom of the inning again, but Yunker drew a walk, stole second, took third on a wild pitch and scored on a squeeze bunt by Perry Casto to make it 4-2 after three.
Branson tied the score and had the bases loaded with one out before Brown brought in Elliott Seelig, who promptly got a double play to get out of the jam with the score still 4-4. And in the top of the seventh, Noah Brown singled then stole second and third on back-to-back pitches, and Wargo singled with two outs to bring in the go-ahead run. Yunker came in to pitch the bottom of the seventh and earn a save.
The finale on Saturday did not go as planned for the Legends, though, as Hickman (Nebraska) won 7-1.
“I felt this was a winnable game, but our defense let us down early,” Brown said. “We made some pitching mistakes by getting behind in the count and, at this level, the experienced hitters will hurt you if you have to throw fastballs in obvious fastball counts.”
All told, the weekend left the Legends 11-10 on the season heading into a pair of key Western Ohio League games at home — against Piqua Tuesday and Sidney Wednesday.
“It’s 12 hours to get to Omaha,” Brown said. “I believe we played against some great players, and we can build on that.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.