By Josh Brown
TROY — Even with the graduation of many key players — including three of the team’s top pitchers from last year — Troy Post 43 has plenty to be excited about as the season begins this weekend.
Of course, it also has to deal with all the other excitement going on, too.
Troy Post will have a tough act to follow this year after reaching the Great Lakes National Regionals, capping off a 45-18 season with a state legion runner-up finish and being the first team from the area to advance to the national regionals since 1970. But — once it gets rolling — the team has the potential to do even more big things.
“The start of every legion season is hectic,” Troy Post 43 coach Frosty Brown said. “Between high school awards nights, high school tournament play, all-star games and graduations, it is very difficult to get everyone together for practice. But it’s great to see the enthusiasm of this year’s team.
“We set out to find exactly the same kind of players for 2016 that enabled us to be 45-18 and Ohio Legion state runners-up last summer. I feel we have players this year who take pride in their game, have tasted success and will come out every game to compete.”
And Brown knows something about how legion seasons begin — with this being Troy Post 43’s 49th season of baseball, he is returning for his 44th as the team’s head coach.
Post 43 begins the season Sunday with a doubleheader at Anthony Wayne High School against Whitehouse Legion. It then returns home Monday to host the Cincinnati Riverbats and hosts the Cincinnati Fury Tuesday night — the beginning four home games in the first week.
“Memorial Day weekend is an opportunity to play three quality teams and get a feel for how this year’s team is actually configured,” Brown said. “I’d like to play all the pitchers in five games and see what we need to work on.
“Wednesday, we begin playing nine-inning games when we host Pemberville Legion, then Thursday we travel to Ottawa Legion. Friday, we play our first league game against Greenville at home. That’s eight games in six days which I feel will test our depth and our understanding of our system.”
Overall, Brown thinks this year’s schedule will constantly put his team to the test and prepare it for bigger things later in the year.
“I like our schedule,” he said. “Our Veterans Appreciation Tournament on June 10-12 is a very competitive tournament and attracts a good group of college and pro scouts. We will also be going back to Omaha for the prestigious Decker CWS Tournament June 22-26, and in our spare time we’ll attend several NCAA Division I College World Series games. Then we’re headed back to Lancaster for their Fourth of July Classic, which we won last summer. We will be returning to the NABF World Series in Youngstown, where the best teams from all over the country come and compete.
“We had a great season last year. We won our league, then won the Legion District Tournament. We were state legion runners-up and were the first team in the area since 1970 to attend the Great Lakes National Regionals. Our program is 1,832-859 over 49 years, we’ve had nearly 450 young men advance to play in college and 42 have signed pro contracts. This spring, we had 16 playing in college — but even more impressive is that we have seven coaching in college.”
And with all of that success through the years, Brown knows where it all begins.
“Pitching is the key to every team’s success,” he said. “We lost three impact pitchers from last year’s staff in Trenton Wood and Ryan Lavy, who were fixtures on our staff for three summers, and Zach Greenwald, who was named to the 2015 NABF All-World Series team. This summer, we’ll be counting on pitchers who ‘want’ the ball.
“Aside from third-year returnee Chris Heisey, the staff is relatively young and inexperienced, but I think they will make up for it with tenacity. I plan on using Hunter Cohee, Matt Donovan, Dylan Hensley, Mitchell Lindsey and Heisey as starters. Our overall pitching depth has improved. We have a pair of lefty relievers in Jacob Coleman and Dalton Lee, plus we have two proven right-handers in Noah Roswell and Nick Matney. We intend to develop hard-throwing freshman right-hander Ian Yunker as a closer. Senior Anthony Steel is another right-hander who’ll work as a closer and has some legion experience, and sophomore Perry Casto will see action in relief.”
Post 43 also has a solid group of catchers this season, as well as a veteran infield.
“Our catching duties are in great hands,” Brown said. “Last year, Ethan Garland stepped in as a freshman and caught 60 percent of the games. He has a rocket arm and hits very well. This year, we added two very fine catchers — Kieran Williams and Anthony Steele have great arms and give us a tandem of quality receivers. Anthony will also see time on the mound and Kieran may see some third-base duty.
“Last summer, our infield was excellent. We lost Lavy and Cody Harsman, but we have middle infielders Greg Peffley and Michael Hale returning directly from Marietta University, where both we selected all-league. They are an excellent double play combo, plus they are hitters with good power. We have several candidates for the third-base job in Matney, Frankie Gmuca, Hensley, Casto and Yunker, and Cohee and Roswell are the front-runners at first base.”
And while Post 43’s outfield is full of new faces, veteran Brandon Nesbitt will return to provide an anchor.
“Brandon was our No. 2 hitter in the lineup between Peffley and Hale last year,” Brown said. “He returns after competing for Muskingum College this spring. He had a big year for us, and we like what he brings to the team. He is very versatile and could earn a spot at third, as well as right field. New to the outfield are speedsters Cory Cottrell and Keaton Mohler. I like Cory in center field and Mohler in left, and both have the right skills to be great outfielders.”
Brown also welcomes assistant coaches Jack Mohler and Ray Lindsey to his staff this season.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.