By Josh Brown
STRUTHERS — All season long, the Troy Post 43 Legends have faced the best.
That certainly helped at the National Amateur Baseball Federation (NABF) World Series at Bob Cene Park in Struthers, Ohio, to close out the 2018 season as the Legends qualified for the finals out of pool play and eventually placed fifth in the tournament.
“I think our tough schedule paid dividends this weekend,” Troy Post 43 coach Frosty Brown said. “We’ve played the best teams, like the Oklahoma City Mustangs, Bismarck (ND), the Indiana Havoc, the Kentucky Rockers, the Memphis Rawlings, the Indianapolis Prospects, the Nashville Legends, the Lexington Grays and the Louisville Legends — and we competed well against them all. This weekend, we stepped up and met another challenging group.
“We found ourselves in a very tough pool in the NABF World Series. Our pool was made up of Team Ontario, the Baird Brothers from Youngstown (the eventual tournament champion), the New York SAYO Grays and the Means Transformers from Detroit. And we stepped up and qualified for the finals.”
Troy got off to a rocky start in the tournament, though, taking on Team Ontario and the Baird Brothers on Thursday and dropping both games.
Against Team Ontario, Post 43 starter Troy Powers gave the Legends a chance with an outstanding effort, striking out seven and allowing four hits and two walks. After giving up two first-inning runs, he held the opposition hitless for the next five innings.
“Team Ontario, I know that they are always very aggressive hitters and baserunners,” Brown said. “You have to pitch somebody with the ability to throw strike-one curveballs and changeups in fastball counts. If not? Look out. And Troy Powers was simply awesome.”
Troy got a run back in the second, capitalizing on control issues by Team Ontario’s pitcher and trailed 2-1 going into the seventh. A bad bounce on a routine grounder allowed an insurance run to score in the top of the inning, though, putting Post 43 down by two. Pinch-hitter Ian Yunker led off the bottom of the seventh with a triple and scored on a wild pitch, but Team Ontario held on for a 3-2 win.
The Legends found the going much tougher against the Baird Brothers, though, with Keaton Mohler breaking up a perfect game attempt by Ben Miller with a one-out single in the seventh for Troy’s only hit in an 8-0 loss.
“Twelve of their players are college signees or college freshmen, and they were as good as advertised,” Brown said. “Ben Miller, a freshman from the University of Virginia, put on a great performance, and he was backed up by incredible defense. In the fifth, Jacob Duncan smashed a comebacker off of Miller’s leg that appeared to be a hit, but third baseman Mario Duesario played the ball and threw him out by a step. It’s the kind of play you see on MLB highlights.”
Still, Troy Post 43 didn’t give up.
“Down 0-2 in pool play could have easily impacted most teams,” Brown said. “Our backs were against the wall, but I told the kids we still had a chance. Baird could help us out by giving teams some losses, but we had to do our part — and that’s what we did.”
On Friday, the Legends faced the Means Transformers and put together the exact kind of game they needed, winning 8-0 to stay alive.
Brandon Wilson pitched a two-hitter and struck out five in the win, and Post 43’s hitters produced plenty of support. Mohler was 3 for 4 with four RBIs, including a two-run single in the second that put Troy up 3-0 early. Perry Casto was also 1 for 3 with two RBIs and Austin Kendall was 2 for 3 in the game.
Troy knew it faced a must-win Saturday morning, but it got the help it needed to set up a potential three-way tie for second in the pool if it did win. And Yunker pitched a gem against the New York SAYO Grays, striking out 12 and allowing only three hits and one walk in a critical 3-0 Post 43 victory.
“He pitched like the college player we think he can be,” Brown said. “He was fast, and he threw great first-pitch curveballs and hard disappearing sliders. His performance earned him a spot on the NABF All-World Series team.”
And in the bottom of the sixth, the Legends offense finally broke through on the scoreboard. Austin Kloeker singled, then back-to-back walks loaded the bases. Troy attempted a delayed squeeze, but the pitch was tipped directly into the catcher’s glove, and he tried to throw out Kloeker at third. The throw was high, though, and two runs came in on the play. An RBI sac fly by Mohler tacked on one more insurance run, and Yunker punched out two batters in the seventh to preserve the win.
Troy Post 43 ended up qualifying out of pool play by finishing second, winning the three-way tiebreaker by having allowed only 11 runs to the SAYO Grays’ 13 and Team Ontario’s 23. That set up a game that night against the New York Nine — a team that Troy last faced in the NABF World Series back in 2012.
The Nine took advantage of its chances and built a 10-1 lead as Troy went through three pitchers early.
“The Nine, like all of these teams, will hurt you if a pitcher gets behind in the count,” Brown said. “They are fastball hunters, and if you have to call fastballs in fastball counts, look out. That’s basically what happened to starter Jacob Duncan, so I brought in Nick Hundley, but a couple walks set up back-to-back hits. Trailing 6-0, Chase Weaver took over, and he stopped the rally. Chase threw well for two innings, but back-to-back walks and a double led to Jakob Libecap taking the mound. I was very pleased to see how Libecap stopped the Nine in their tracks and gave us an outside chance for a comeback.”
Troy began its rally with a single by Kaleb Bowdle, who was then driven in by Andy Wargo — who was 3 for 4 in the game. Wargo took third on a wild pitch and scored on an RBI groundout by Casto to make it 10-3 going into the seventh inning. And in the seventh, Bowdle hit a two-run double and scored on Wargo’s third hit of the game, but the Nine were able to hold on for the win and end Troy Post 43’s season.
The Legends finished the season with a 24-21 overall record.
“That in itself doesn’t tell the true story of this team,” Brown said. “We had 11 regular season rainouts, so a majority of our schedule was played under tournament pressure against teams like the New York Nine, the SAYO Grays and the Baird Brothers. We lost seven of those games by a total of 13 runs, and we had a couple of injuries that impacted our pitching staff. But we didn’t let any of it affect us. We just adapted and kept on competing.
“This team represented our Legion Post and our community well, and this was a great team to travel with. Many of these guys are back next year, too. These fellows never give in and they love the game, and that bodes well for the future. I am proud of this team.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.