By Josh Brown
TROY — After splitting a pair of games on Saturday night, Troy Post 43 faced one more tough pitcher in the Miami Valley Veterans Appreciation Tournament finale on Sunday.
The Circleville Panthers’ Jakobe Lewis struck out 12 Post 43 batters Sunday afternoon, including a number of clutch ones with runners on base as Troy simply could not get the big hit when it needed it in a 4-1 loss to close out the weekend tournament with a 4-1 record.
Troy (9-7) defeated Hillsboro 7-2 on Saturday night for its lone win during the tournament before facing another tough team in the Columbus Braves — the team they lost to in last year’s tournament championship game — falling in that one 1-0.
Dylan Hensley got the win against Hillsboro, striking out five and only allowing two hits and two walks. And against the Braves, Landon Donovan pitched well enough to win, striking out six while walking two and allowing only three hits, but Columbus was able to keep Troy’s bats in check and ensure they wouldn’t be making a return trip to the title game.
Circleville’s Lewis proved to be one final test that was too tough to overcome on Sunday.
“I don’t know where all of these 90-mile-an-hour guys are coming from,” Troy Post 43 coach Frosty Brown said. “There’s not supposed to be that many of them around. That guy today blew some gas at us.
“We gave away a couple of runs early. And when you’re facing a guy like that, you can’t afford to give away any runs. We let two runs score on an error and one on a wild pitch. Those are the kind of things we need to eliminate.”
And while Post 43 starter Chris Heisey was able to work out of trouble in the first, leaving a runner stranded on second, a second-inning error proved costly. After a leadoff single and a walk put two runners on, Johnny Potts laid down a sacrifice bunt attempt. The throw to first was wild, though, allowing both runners to come around and score.
Heisey hit the next batter and a successful sac bunt moved the runners to second and third with one out, but Heisey induced a popout and a flyout to escape without any further damage. And after a leadoff single in the third, third baseman Frankie Gmuca and second baseman Ian Yunker turned a double play to erase that threat, and the score remained 2-0 Circleville.
The Panthers managed to tack on two more runs in the fourth, though. A leadoff hit-batter and a walk put two runners on, and a sac bunt moved them up to second and third. A sac fly to center by Dustin Kaiser brought in the first run, and the second scored on a wild pitch to put Post 43 down 4-0.
Troy finally got on the board in the bottom of the fourth. Cory Cotrell drew a walk to lead off and took second on an errant pickoff attempt, and with one out Kieran Williams drilled a single up the middle to bring him home for Post 43’s first run. But Lewis got a strikeout and a flyout to leave the runner stranded on second and Troy trailing by three.
“We’re not getting aggressive leadoffs. We need to work on our bunting and baserunning,” Brown said. “We’re not doing the little things we need to do to manufacture runs.”
Post 43 had chances in every inning the rest of the way, but it simply couldn’t break through completely against Lewis. Yunker and Brandon Nesbitt both singled in the fifth and a wild pitch put them on second and third with two outs, but a called third strike put an end to that threat. And in the sixth, Hunter Cohee and Williams began the inning with back-to-back singles and a fielder’s choice put runners on the corners with one out, but an inning-ending 4-3 double play on a ball hit up the middle killed that rally.
And in the bottom of the seventh, Yunker and Greg Peffley drew one-out walks and Nesbitt singled to load the bases, only to have Lewis get another called third strike and then induce a groundout back to himself to end the game.
“A lot of our guys haven’t seen 90-mile-an-hour guys,” Brown said. “We’ve got to make a few adjustments, and we’re also dealing with an injury right now. Once we get our second baseman Michael Hale back in the lineup, that should help. But that was the third 90-mile-an-hour guy we’ve seen in the last two weeks. We faced some really good pitching this weekend.”
Heisey took the loss, only giving up two hits and one earned run in 3 2-3 innings but walking four and hitting two. Cohee finished the final three innings, giving up two hits, walking two and striking out one as Post 43 outhit Circleville 7-4.
Williams was 2 for 3 with an RBI, Nesbitt was 3 for 3 with a double and Yunker and Cohee each had a hit.
Troy is off on Monday and hosts the Miami Valley Prospects Tuesday before traveling to Greenville Legion on Wednesday.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.