By Josh Brown
TROY — Since returning from its weekend tournament in Omaha, Troy Post 43 has been showing off how much it has improved.
As if Tuesday’s win over Piqua wasn’t enough evidence, Wednesday’s win was proof positive.
Even after Sidney Post 217 took the lead in the first and retook it in the third, the Legends maintained constant pressure throughout the game, taking the lead for good in the fourth and scoring in every inning except the sixth, while starter Troy Powers just got stronger and stronger as the game went on as Troy Post 43 put away a 7-4 victory over Sidney — something of a rarity for the team over the past three seasons — Wednesday at Duke Park.
Troy Post 43 — which went 1-4 over the weekend at the Locker Room College World Series Tournament in Omaha — improved to 12-10 overall and 4-3 in the Western Ohio League, while Sidney fell to 12-12 and 3-2 in WOL play. Sidney had run through WOL play undefeated two seasons in a row, as well as qualifying for back-to-back state legion tournaments, and already boasted a 4-3 win over the Legends earlier this season in Sidney.
“It’s been a couple years,” Troy Post 43 coach Frosty Brown said. “I thought it (the high level of competition in Omaha) would (help). We didn’t play bad out there (in Omaha), either. If we saw that kind of competition all the time, things would be really good. That does expand you, to be able to do that. And I thought we hit the ball really well tonight against an established pitcher.”
In the end, keeping the potent Sidney lineup off the scoreboard proved to be the difference.
Powers had a rough start to the game as Austin McClain drew a leadoff walk, stole second and scored on an RBI single by Hunter Cohee to give Post 217 a 1-0 lead. Noah Richard followed with a single to put two on, but Powers got out of the inning without any further damage.
Troy answered in the bottom of the inning, too, with Noah Brown leading off with a single, stealing second, taking third on a wild pitch and eventually scoring on an RBI single by Andy Wargo. And in the bottom of the second, Austin Kendall tripled to lead off the inning and Frank Gmuca laid down a perfect squeeze bunt to drive him in and give the Legends a 2-1 lead.
In the third, though, Sidney cashed in a couple of Post 43 miscues to retake the lead. Deion Puthoff singled to lead off and Cohee was hit by a pitch, then a groundout and a stolen base by Richard put runners on second and third with one out. Powers got a strikeout and looked poised to get out of the jam, but Evan Monnier hit a blooper to right that the fielder overran on the ground for a two-run double, and a dropped fly ball off the bat of Jarod Seigle brought in another run to make it 4-2 Sidney.
From there, though, Powers was in total control, allowing only one baserunner on a walk over the next four innings. He finished the game allowing four hits, walking two and hitting a batter while striking out seven.
“They’re susceptible to changeups, and Troy threw some good changeups tonight,” Brown said. “Troy got better as the game went along — especially his fastball, which made that changeup even tougher.”
And offensively, the Legends continued to find ways to score.
A two-out RBI single by Brandon Wilson in the bottom of the third cut the lead to 4-3, then Troy loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth. Gmuca was hit by the first pitch he saw to bring home one run, then pinch hitter Ian Yunker hit an RBI sacrifice fly to center to give the lead back to Post 43 at 5-4.
And in the sixth, the Legends added a pair of insurance runs. After two walks put runners on the corners with one out, Jacob Duncan drove an RBI single to right. A single by Perry Casto loaded the bases, and Gmuca drew an RBI walk to make the score 7-4 — which proved to be plenty of support for Powers.
For Post 43, Gmuca led the way with three RBIs despite not having an official at-bat, going 0 for 0 with a sacrifice, a walk and a hit-by-pitch — all of which scored runs. Wargo, Wilson, Duncan and Yunker each had an RBI, Kendall was 2 for 3 with a triple and two runs scored and Brown was 2 for 4 with two runs.
Kendall also made a stellar play in the field to kick off the top of the seventh. McClain lined a shot that glanced out of third baseman Wilson’s glove … and rolled right to Kendall, who alertly picked it up and fired to first to keep the dangerously fast leadoff runner off base, and Powers sat Post 217 down in order from there to end it.
“I thought that play Kendall made with the ball coming off of Wilson’s glove, I haven’t seen something like that in high school in a long, long time,” Brown said. “That ranks right up there as one of the greatest things I’ve seen. And he’s doing what we want him to do at the plate. And Gmuca, we did find ways to score. Duncan came up with a big at-bat — and he was ready to go (on the mound) in the seventh if things got shaky … but Powers threw really, really well. And that’s what we need to do.”
For Sidney, Monnier had a double and two RBIs, Cohee had a hit and an RBI and Puthoff and Richard each had a hit. Cohee took the loss, allowing seven runs on seven hits, five walks and a hit batter while striking out one in 4 1-3 innings of work, with McClain finishing the final 1 2-3 innings striking out two and allowing two hits.
After a day off Thursday, Troy Post 43 heads to Lancaster for the Lancaster Post 11 Classic tournament. Sidney Post 217, meanwhile, will begin play in the Don Coss Tournament Friday in Cambridge.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.