By Josh Brown
TROY — Even before its trip to Omaha for the Locker Room College World Series Tournament, Troy Post 43 found itself playing from behind more often than not.
In its first game back at home after facing that high-caliber competition, the Legends looked like a different team.
Troy took advantage of a two-out error in the first inning by following it with four consecutive hits, including a two-run double by Austin Kendall to cap off a four-run inning as the Legends built a lead as big as five runs after three innings. That was plenty of support for starter Ian Yunker, who left eight Piqua runners stranded in a complete game and shut down Post 184 in a 5-1 Post 43 victory Tuesday at Duke Park.
Post 43, which improved to 12-10 and 3-3 in the Western Ohio League, was coming off of a 1-4 trip to the Locker Room CWS Tournament — though the team played far better than that record indicates, with numerous rallies falling short against quality competition. And before that trip, Troy gave up four first-inning runs against Sidney and eventually lost that game 4-3. Troy had even fallen behind in the first meeting against Piqua, which it also eventually won 5-1.
Tuesday’s meeting went different from the start.
“We’ve played some awful good people lately,” Troy Post 43 coach Frosty Brown said. “It’s a different animal when you see those teams in Omaha. Not that we’re knocking anybody. But we faced some teams … the team from Bismarck had been their state champions six out of 10 years or something like that, and the guy that runs the tournament said they just seem to keep coming up with ballplayers every year. It was kind of a relief to see somebody not throwing 88 or 90 (miles per hour). Not to knock the kid, he’s a good pitcher, but we’ve been seeing guys that throw a bit harder.
“The other thing is being at home. We haven’t been home in almost two weeks. That’s always tough. We didn’t play in our Veterans Appreciation Tournament — every team got two games in except us. So it was good to be back.”
Piqua fell to 14-13 with the loss and 3-3 in WOL play despite a solid outing from Austin Rutledge, who walked three and gave up nine hits and zero earned runs in a complete game.
Four of those hits came in the first inning, though. Andy Wargo reached on a two-out error, then Brandon Wilson singled to put two on. Back-to-back RBI singles by Jacob Duncan and Nick Hundley gave Troy the lead, then Kendall capped off the rally by yanking a two-run double over the right fielder’s head to put the Legends in an unfamiliar place — up 4-0 after one inning.
The Legends added another run in the third, as Wilson singled to lead off, stole second and took third on an errant throw by the catcher and eventually scored on a one-out RBI single by Hundley to go up 5-0. But that was all the offense Troy managed as it left two runners stranded in each the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
“It felt good,” Brown said of taking control early. “We’re learning this. It’s an on-the-job training kind of thing. We have a lot of juniors and guys that are in their first year. We’re finding stuff out — and sometimes, they’re finding out what we tell them the hard way. But overall, we’ve got guys that have been through it before, and they’re providing some leadership.”
And Tuesday night, Yunker led from the mound.
Yunker limited Piqua to only one hit and no runs through the first six innings, eventually allowing only one unearned run on four hits, two walks and a hit batter while striking out five.
Post 184’s best chance to get back into the game came in the fourth as Rylee Deitsch reached on an error, Howie Ludwig singled with one out and Rutledge drew a walk to load the bases with two outs. But Yunker got a called third strike to leave three stranded, and Troy still led by five.
“Ian’s capable of dominating a ballgame,” Brown said. “But he hasn’t been, and it’s mostly about getting behind in the count. When he’s ahead in the count like tonight, it’s tough on people to hit him, because he’s got a really good curveball and a good slider and his fastball is in the higher 80s. But when you’re the batter and you know it has to be a fastball because it’s a 2-0 count, that reduces all your advantages.”
Piqua finally got on the scoreboard in the seventh, hitting three balls that bounced off of Yunker — the first two of which were thrown away at first base. First, Kaeden Walker hit a ball that bounced off Yunker to the third baseman, who overthrew the first baseman for an infield single and an error that put a runner on second. Mike Ashcraft, the next batter up, hit one off of Yunker that the pitcher himself picked up, but he also overthrew first base, another infield single and a run-scoring error that made it 5-1.
After a fielder’s choice for the first out, Corey Cotrell hit another infield single that bounced off of Yunker, putting runners on first and second. But Yunker got an easy grounder to short, and a runner’s interference call at second base completed the game-ending double play.
“We discussed that — they shouldn’t have thrown those balls away,” Brown said. “They both should have just ate it. We almost had a game-ending double play the play before, too. We’ve turned a lot of double plays this year.”
For Post 43 in the game, Hundley was 3 for 3 with two RBIs, Kendall was 1 for 2 with a double and two RBIs, Noah Brown was 2 for 3 with a double, Wilson was 2 for 4 with two runs scored, Duncan was 1 for 3 with an RBI and Wargo scored a run.
After hosting Sidney in a WOL rematch on Wednesday night, Troy travels to Lancaster to play in theLancaster Post 11 Classic beginning Friday.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.