By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — Last season, Troy Post 43 Legends American Legion baseball battled its way through adversity all year to a 24-21 record.
As the team begins its 52nd season, veteran coach Frosty Brown is looking to put the pieces together for another big year.
And while Troy has a number of players back from last year’s team and plenty of experience and versatility, a short-handed version of the team struggled in its season-opening tournament over the weekend, going 1-4-1 in the Memorial Weekend Tournament Saturday, Sunday and Monday at Duke Park.
“We are experienced, we have pitching depth plus we have gifted infielders and veteran catcher,” said Brown, who is starting his 48th season as Troy Post 43’s coach. “We are playing a great schedule against some of the best in the midwest so we have to accept the challenge. So there is a lot look forward to.”
The tournament was a round-robin format with three other teams — the Gem City Throwbacks, Pemberville Legion and Team Ontario from Canada, as well as a juniors division. But the Memorial Weekend tournament is only the beginning for the team.
”We added a Juniors Legion Team Division, so that we can see our younger players compete,” Brown said. “Our Junior Legion team finished with a 3-2 record on the weekend. Playing six games in three days will give all of our players a chance show their skills.
“I like our schedule. We will again be playing in the Hillsboro Wood Bat Tourney, the Lancaster Post 11 Classic and the Locker Room CWS Tourney in Omaha. We are competing in the couple of new tournaments this summer. We’ll play in the Grady Invitational at Athletes in Action in Xenia, the Ohio Summer Blast in Union Centre and the Red Hawk Classic at Miami University. We’ll play our league games during the week and play in tournaments on the weekends.“
Post 43 returns nine experienced players: Austin Kendall (Troy High School), Ian Yunker (Tippecanoe), Jacob Francis (Jackson Center), Elliot Seelig (Chaminade Julienne), Andy Wargo (Miami East), Brandon Wilson (Miami East), J.R. Young (Wapakoneta), Jakob Libecap (Troy) and Noah Brown (Northwestern). And Brown knows how important pitching is to a team’s success, so Post 43 will carry a large and diverse pitching staff.
”We have 13 players who will see action on the mound,” Brown said. “Ian Yunker is a fourth-year pitcher who earned All-NABF World Series Honors last summer. He leads a group of young men whom I feel will compete and challenge hitters. Senior Jacob Francis is a high velocity performer. Elliot Seelig (junior), Warren Hartzell (freshman) and Ben Spangler (junior) are expected to be starters, as are Brandon Wilson (college) and Ian Gengler. With seven starting pitchers, we can get into tourney play and not have to pitch someone who is tired. Scheduled relievers are Braeden Snider (senior), Noah Brown (college), Darius Boeke (junior), Jakob Libecap (senior) and Zach Seagraves (junior) all bring different looks that complement the starters.”
Senior Andy Wargo will be back behind the plate at catcher, as well, with Hartzell backing him up.
”(Wargo) did a tremendous job in 2018 and is headed to Muskingum University next fall,” Brown said. “Youngster Warren Hartzell will see action behind the plate, too. Both have great hands and excellent throwing skills.”
Post 43 also has a veteran look to the 2019 infield.
“Senior Austin Kendall (shortstop/second base), Brandon Wilson (third base), Jacob Francis (shortstop), Kyle Evans (second base/left field) and J.R. Young (first base) are talented defensively and are key hitters,” Brown said. “Ian Gengler (first base), Colt Francis (junior, second base), Ben Spangler (shortstop), Braeden Snider (first base), Jakob Libecap (first base) and Elliot Seelig (first base/third base) give us good depth. Snider and Seelig are excellent hitters and may figure in also as designated hitters or at first base.”
And the outfield will largely be made up of pitchers, as well, giving Brown options when crafting each day’s lineup.
“Noah Brown (center field), Ian Yunker (right field) and Jacob Francis (center field) head up the outfielders, but juniors Darius Boeke and Zack Seagraves will see action in left and right field respectively. All are pitchers, which gives us versatility,” Brown said.
Coach Brown will also brought on largely a new crew of assistant coaches and will be assisted by Jacob Marvin, Bob Elsass, John Seagraves, Zach Kendall and Ethan Garland this season.
On opening weekend, some of those options and some of that versatility were not available, making the Memorial Weekend Tournament something of a struggle.
“I knew that playing six games in three days would be a test, but I had not anticipated that our pitching would be depleted due to graduations, one in the regional (high school) tournament and one with shoulder irritation,” Brown said. “The competition in this round robin was excellent, and getting caught short-handed showed.”
Post 43 opened strong, defeating the Gem City Throwbacks 11-4 in the season opener Saturday.
Yunker went the distance on the mound, taking a shutout into the sixth inning and finishing with eight strikeouts and two walks. Offensively, Evans was 3 for 4 with five RBIs and Boeke, Brown and Yunker each had two hits — and the team combined to steal nine bases, as well. In Saturday’s late game, Ian Gengler pitched well against Team Ontario but rain cut the game short in a 3-3 tie.
On Sunday, Troy began play dropping a heartbreaker to Pemberville, 6-5. Trailing 5-2 in the sixth, Seagraves drove in a run and Brown hit a two-run single to tie the score, but Pemberville won it in the bottom of the seventh on a two-out walkoff hit. And in the late game on Sunday, the Gem City Throwbacks got some payback, taking advantage of mistakes in a 10-0 victory in five innings.
Post 43 suffered another narrow defeat to begin Monday’s play, falling 4-3 in walkoff fashion to Team Ontario. Yunker drove in a run to give Troy the early lead and Andy Wargo hit a two-run single in the top of the sixth to make it a 3-0 game. A two-run Team Ontario homer cut the lead to one in the bottom of the inning, though, and another two-out walkoff hit, this time a two-run double, gave Team Ontario the win in the seventh. Troy finished off the tournament Monday night with a 12-0 run-rule loss to Pemberville.
Troy Post 43 gets right into league play Wednesday night, hosting rival Piqua Post 184 at Duke Park.
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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