By Josh Brown
TROY — The game couldn’t have ended any other way.
In a fitting end to a sloppy game — one in which eight of the combined 11 runs scored were unearned — a dropped fly ball in center field allowed the winning run to score in the bottom of the ninth inning, breaking up a tie ballgame and giving Troy Post 43 a gritty 6-5 victory over Greenville Post 140 Tuesday at Duke Park in an opening-round game of the American Legion Baseball Region 2 Tournament.
Post 43 (20-20) scored its only two earned runs of the game in the third to take a 3-0 lead, but Greenville tied the score in the sixth. Troy retook the lead in the seventh with a pair of unearned runs — then handed them right back by giving Greenville two more unearned runs in the eighth.
“It isn’t new to us,” Troy Post 43 coach Frosty Brown said. “We’ve just learned to try to overcome it. I had a team a few years ago that was really terrible on defense and really great on offense. It just learned to adjust — it knew the errors would come and that it’d have to score to make up for them. This group has had to do that a lot this year, too.”
Troy got its first run in the second as Cory Cotrell drew a leadoff walk and took second on a wild pitch. Greenville starter Billy Lanman got a pair of flyouts and looked poised to escape the inning, but a pop to second base off the bat of Noah Roswell was dropped, allowing the runner to score.
Then in the third, Greg Peffley led off the inning by pulling a solo homer over the fence in right field, barely keeping it in fair territory. Michael Hale then walked, stole second and scored on a two-out RBI single by Cotrell that made it a 3-0 game.
That looked like it’d be plenty of support for starter Mitchell Lindsey, who cruised through the first four innings by striking out six and scattering three hits. But he hit Dom Huffman to lead off the fifth, threw a wild pitch then gave up an RBI double to Grant Minnich that put Greenville on the board, and he gave way to reliever Hunter Cohee.
And in the sixth, Tyler Netzley reached on a one-out error and Cole Burrell singled, then a walk to Kane Kimmell loaded the bases. Huffman hit a slow grounder to third, and the fielder rushed the throw home, threw it over the catcher’s head and two runs scored to tie the game.
“It’s kind of the same pattern we’ve seen all year,” Brown said. “The kids are getting better and starting to understand situations, but then that’ll happen. It’s hit-batters and wild pitches and other mistakes to start innings that always hurt us. If we don’t put those guys on and advance them like that, we’re not in position to commit those bigger errors later. But part of that is our inexperience.”
Troy got the lead back in the bottom of the seventh thanks to some Greenville errors. Roswell beat out an infield single to lead off and advanced to second on an error. Brandon Nesbitt hit an RBI single back up the middle then moved into scoring position himself on another error and was eventually driven home on a two-out RBI single by Cohee to make it a 5-3 game.
But in the top of the eighth, a leadoff walk to Kimmell and a wild pitch put a runner in scoring position, and a throwing error by the shortstop on a ball hit by Huffman allowed that run to score. Huffman took third on a wild pitch, then Minnich hit a grounder to third that was booted, and the score was tied once again without the benefit of a hit.
Troy’s lone defensive highlight on the night was catcher Ethan Garland, who was a perfect 3 for 3 in throwing runners out attempting to steal — including twice in that eighth inning to minimize the damage and keep the score tied 5-5 heading into the final inning.
After reliever Logan Donovan — who eventually got credit for the win — held Greenville in check in the top of the ninth, Nesbitt led off the bottom of the inning with a double. Peffley hit a long fly ball to center field and Nesbitt prepared to tag up, and the center fielder put too much focus on making the throw to third before actually catching the ball, dropping it and allowing Nesbitt to score from second with the game-winner.
With the win, Troy advanced to the winner’s bracket to face Sidney Legion, a 16-6 winner over Piqua in the other Tuesday game. Post 43 traveled to host site Greenville to face Sidney Wednesday in a game that was not complete at time of press, while Greenville took on Piqua at Duke Park in an elimination game.
“We’ve got Sidney now, and we really need to concentrate on them,” Brown said. “They’re an older team, and we can’t play like this. If we go out and play the way we’re capable of playing, we’ll have a shot.
“We’re back to the .500 mark now, but we’re playing a real tough team. We had some big hits when we needed them tonight, and we’ll have the right guy on the mound when we face Sidney.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.