By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — The first victory of the season is always a good feeling.
Some adversity beforehand can make it a little sweeter.
But for all of that, and for it to come against a big rival?
“That’s a Cloud Nine feeling right there,” Piqua Post 184 coach Justin Jennings said.
After three straight losses to begin the season, Piqua Post 184 finally broke through — and against its biggest rival, no less — capitalizing on Troy Post 43’s mistakes and holding on late for a 4-3 victory Wednesday night at Duke Park to kick off Western Ohio League American Legion baseball play.
And it was a typical game in the rivalry between the two teams, too, with nothing going as it seemed it would. Piqua Post 184 (1-3, 1-0 WOL) only managed one hit in the game but was able to take advantage of four Troy errors, including one that kicked off a three-run top of the sixth in which Piqua did not even get a hit.
“Never a dull moment,” Jennings said.”We had some frustrations this weekend, but I’m happy with what we’ve got, that’s for sure.”
Post 43 (1-5, 0-1 WOL), meanwhile, lost for the fifth straight time since winning its season opener, and it simply couldn’t get the job done in clutch situations on offense, leaving eight runners stranded throughout the game, four of those in scoring position — including the potential tying run only 90 feet away on third in the bottom of the seventh.
“We gave up one hit, no earned runs,” Troy Post 43 coach Frosty Brown said. “We hit the ball hard, but they knocked down a couple of nice shots. We hit a couple deep, but they were there. But that’s all part of the game.”
Post 184 starter Iverson Ventura had a lot to do with that.
The left-hander kept Post 43 off balance all night, scattering six hits, two walks and a hit-batter while only striking out two.
“That’s his M.O.,” Jennings said. “He’s a lefty, he’s a tall, lanky fellow, and that’s what he knows how to do. He doesn’t have that fireball, so he’s got to find his own creative ways. He’s grown up a lot since last year, and I think he put a lot of work in in the offseason.”
Piqua took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third after a two-base error and wild pitch led to an RBI single by Howie Ludwig. Troy finally got a run off of Ventura in the bottom of the fourth to tie the score, cashing in a leadoff single by Brandon Wilson on a two-out error off the bat of J.R. Young, but no matter how much pressure Post 43 put on Ventura after that, it simply couldn’t get over the hump.
Austin Kendall drew a walk, stole second and advanced to third on an error with two outs in the fifth, but Ventura got a strikeout in a key moment to leave the runner stranded. And after Piqua scored three in the top of the sixth to take a 4-1 lead, Troy fought back with a two-out rally in the bottom of the inning — but it just wasn’t enough. Wargo hit a two-out single and Young doubled to put two runners in scoring position, and a walk loaded the bases. Ian Gengler blooped in a two-run single to center to cut the lead to one, but Ventura got a fielder’s choice to get out of the jam still holding the lead.
“Our whole weekend was the same way. We just needed to be more patient,” Brown said. “We had a lot of guys go up and hit the first pitch. You’ve just got to be patient against a guy like that. But at least some of the times, we put it in play. We didn’t strike out a lot in those situations. We’d hit a ground ball to somebody and make them make a play.”
And in the seventh, Kendall was hit by a pitch to lead off, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and went to third on a groundout. But Ventura was able to induce a harmless groundout to third to end the game.
“We did that all weekend, too, make good plays on defense,” Jennings said. “We made a couple mistakes, but it didn’t hurt us enough and we didn’t get down about it — we just came right back and made the next play. That’s what I’ve been preaching to them since we got together a couple weeks ago, and that’s what we want to continue to do.”
It all spoiled a solid effort by Troy Post 43 starter Ian Yunker, who only gave up one hit in six innings of work — the RBI single by Ludwig in the third. But he issued six walks and hit a batter, with four of those walks and the hit-batter all coming in Piqua’s three-run sixth inning.
Yunker got a flyout to start the inning, but an error and a walk put two runners on. A fielder’s choice left Piqua with runners on the corners and two outs, but a walk loaded the bases and Levi Godwin was hit by a pitch to drive in the go-ahead run. A wild pitch brought home another run, and back-to-back walks forced in one final run as R.J. Bertini drew an RBI base-on-balls to make the score 4-1 before Yunker got a punchout to end the inning.
“I told the boys the first day we got together that Ian (Yunker) was going to have the ball tonight, so it was no surprise he did,” Jennings said. “He’s got us in the past, and we were just fortunate tonight to get to him a little bit. He still threw a heck of a game, though. He’s a tough kid to beat, no matter what. Our guys were just a little patient up there tonight, and we learned some stuff.”
Offensively for Piqua, Ludwig had a hit and an RBI and Godwin and Bertini each had an RBI.
Gengler was 1 for 3 with two RBIs, Wargo was 2 for 3 with a double and Young double to lead Troy. Noah Brown also worked a scoreless seventh in relief on the mound.
Troy Post 43 is right back in action Thursday night, hosting Greenville Legion, while Piqua Post 184 hosts Circleville Legion on Saturday.
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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