By Josh Brown
TROY — Closing in on 50 years of existence, Troy Post 43 baseball boasts a long and storied history.
And this year, one of its players could very well make some more history.
Colton Nealeigh — a third-year player for Post 43 under coach Frosty Brown from Greenville — is closing in on a career mark that has stood for more than a decade. And with the National Amateur Baseball Federation tournament beginning tonight and the State Legion tournament after that, Nealeigh is poised to take over the all-time team lead in career RBIs.
“I knew I was pretty close. He told me how many I had at the beginning of the season,” Nealeigh said. “It’s really neat.”
“He’s played more than 130 games for us over the past three years, and he’s done a lot of things,” Brown said of Nealeigh. “He’s averaged more than 60 RBIs over the past two years, and he looks like he’ll get there again this year. He was probably third on our all-time list coming into the season, and it looks like he’ll break that record.
“He had 131 RBIs coming into the season, and he has probably about 44 right now.”
“The really neat thing is that he hasn’t moved me,” Nealeigh said. “I’ve played every game for him my whole career with Frosty, except for in my junior year when I was hurt. Other than that, I’ve started every game for him.”
The all-time Post 43 leader is Billy Fitzwilson, who played with the team from 1995-97 and drove in 175 runs — meaning if Nealeigh drives anyone in over the next two tournaments, the all-time record is his. The single-season RBI record belongs to Tyler Stephenson, who drove in 85.
“We’ve had some great hitters over the years, and he’s definitely one of them,” Brown said. “He’s also batting about .400 right now and has hit that way the past two years. He’ll probably end up in the top 5 all time — and there’s some pretty impressive people on that list.If you look at our top 8 career batting averages, it’s scary. He’s in elite company.”
But for Nealeigh, the numbers aren’t the important part.
“He’s a proven winner for us, and that’s what he sets out to do every night,” Brown said. “He probably doesn’t even know he’s in the RBI race. He just goes out to do whatever it takes to win ballgames — and that other stuff just kind of happens on its own when you do that.
“We just let him go out and hit every night. And he does that really well.”
So well, in fact, that opposing teams can’t figure out ways to slow Nealeigh down. In fact, when they try, it just blows up in their faces.
“Teams have started putting a Major League shift on him,” Brown said. “The first time he saw them do that, he drove the ball to right field just to prove that he could. After that, he just started hitting line drives everywhere. You put your defense out of position, and he still rips it by you.
“He’s probably been hitting .700 since teams started playing that shift on him. It turned out to not be a good idea.”
Nealeigh also knows that for him to get those precious RBIs, his teammates have to — and do — work hard, too.
“I’ve consistently gotten one every game this year. Sometimes I’ve gotten four or five in a game, but I’ve been consistent — and that’s because of the guys in front of me,” Nealeigh said. “Our leadoff hitter, Evan Bowling, his on-base percentage was really high last year and it is again this year. Those guys getting on in front of me have helped me a lot.”
And the winning thing has definitely come naturally.
This season, Post 43 is 35-12, having just won the Region 2 Legion tournament on Sunday with an 8-5 victory over Sidney, completing an undefeated run through the Western Ohio League. That earned the team a berth in the State Legion Tournament next week in Lancaster.
And, if Nealeigh and company have anything to say about it, that won’t even be the end.
“My sophomore year we went to state, and that was neat,” Nealeigh said. “We made it to the championship game but got beat twice there. It’d be really neat if we won state and went to North Carolina (for the American Legion World Series). That would be the best — to win state my senior year and go to North Carolina.”
For now, though, Brown is just going to enjoy having Nealeigh’s bat in his lineup a little while longer.
“Over his three years, we won 42 games two years ago, 44 last year and 35 so far this year,” Brown said. “He’s won more than 120 games in three years with us, and that’s impressive. He’s been a joy to play with. There’s no distractions with him. He just comes out and works hard.
“He’s had a great career with us, and he’s really going to be hard to replace. We’ll miss him once he’s gone. He’s going to Sinclair in the fall, and he’s got a really good future in baseball.”
Contact Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.