By Josh Brown
LANCASTER — It’s not often that a Troy Post 43 team can say it’s accomplishing something for the first time in coach Frosty Brown’s tenure.
But uncharted territory is exactly where the team left for Tuesday morning.
Troy Post 43 (36-14) was the state runner-up over the weekend at the State Legion Tournament in Lancaster, falling in the championship game to the Toledo Hawks. But, with the Hawks being forced to forego the trip to the American Legion National Regionals due to a large number of players staying home for high school football, Post 43 is making the trip in its place, the first National Regional appearance in the team’s history.
“We’ll be moving into uncharted territory when we leave for Alton, Ill. Tuesday morning,” Brown said. “We’ll be competing against state legion champions from Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Kentucky. This is not only our program’s first time reaching this level, but the last American Legion team in this part of Ohio to do this was Miamisburg in 1970 — 45 years ago.
“The Toledo Hawks are a very gifted team. Both of our losses at the state legion tournament were to them, but our guys are committed baseball players, and we’ll represent Ohio much better. We put a lot of pressure over the last few weeks on our very good pitching staff, and we more than earned this honor.”
Troy began the state legion tournament with wins over Athens Legion and Cincinnati Yeager Legion on Wednesday and Thursday, only to fall to the Toledo Hawks 8-1 late Friday night. Post 43 took a 1-0 lead after one inning, but the Hawks shut Troy down the rest of the way, outhitting Post 43 10-4 and squeezing home runs here and there throughout the game.
“The Hawks are super aggressive,” Brown said. “I felt like I learned a lot about them, and we felt that if we faced them again, we’d have some answers.”
After that game, Troy and Toledo joined Uttica Legion and Yeager as the only four left alive in the double-elimination tournament. On Saturday, Post 43 took care of Uttica with a 6-4 victory, scoring a pair of runs in the bottom of the ninth to win.
Troy took the lead in the second inning thanks to Trenton Wood’s legs. Wood stole second and third base then scored on a wild pitch to make it 1-0. After Uttica tied the score in the top of the third, Troy posted three in the bottom of the fourth to take charge. Wood started things off with a triple and was driven home by Adam Gunston, who stole second and then scored on a single by Zach Kirby. Kirby followed with a steal of second base, and Brandon Nesbitt brought him home with an RBI triple to make it 4-1 at the time. After Uttica tied the score in the ninth, Troy put it away in the bottom of the inning.
Nesbitt had a big day at the plate, going 2 for 4 with a triple, an RBI a run scored and a whopping three stolen bases as Post 43 stole 10 in the game. Jackson Ford, meanwhile, pitched his first nine-inning complete game, scattering 11 hits and helping the team save pitchers for its title game showdown against the Hawks — who held off Yeager 7-6 in the other semifinal.
Toledo jumped out in front 4-1 after four innings, but Troy fought back. Greg Peffley and Nesbitt hit back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners, then Ryan Lavy and Cody Harsman both hit one-out RBI singles to tie the score at 4-4. The Hawks were able to plate three runs in the sixth, though, and they added an insurance run in the seventh.
Post 43 had a chance to rally, but a huge defensive play by Toledo sealed it. After a Harsman single, Wood hit a shot off the fence in right field and tried for another triple. The relay to the second baseman came in fast, though, and Wood was thrown out at third for the final out of the inning — and the home plate umpire ruled that Harsman had not scored before that out was recorded.
“That was my only mistake of the weekend,” Brown said. “Had I held Wood up, who knows where that rally was headed to. After the game, the umpire said that he would have sent him, too, but an old coach should know better. We lost to a very fine team, but our kids and I think we could have taken them.”
But with upcoming schedule conflicts with other high school sports, the Hawks vacated the chance to move on to the regional level, giving Troy one more accomplishment to add to its long list from this season.
“We set out to win the state championship and go to Alton. We accomplished the latter,” Brown said. “The opportunity to go the the national regionals is a great honor. These young men earned it.We’ve played 12 games in the last two weeks, and these guys want more.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.