By Josh Brown
TROY — Piqua Post 184’s Cameron Gordon worked overtime to hold a potent Troy lineup in check.
Post 43, meanwhile, was able to prevent ts rival from capitalizing on many of its chances.
In the end, the finish of an outstanding baseball game turned out to be as ugly as the conditions it was played in.
After Troy literally squeezed across the game-tying run in the bottom of the eighth inning — and got out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the ninth — Piqua was finally forced to take out starter Gordon in the bottom of the 10th, and a trio of walks in the bottom of the 10th forced in the game-winning run as Post 43 clinched the outright Western Ohio League title with an anticlimactic 3-2 victory over Post 184 on a rainy, messy Tuesday night at Duke Park.
The start of the game was delayed a half hour by a rain that never truly let up, as a constant drizzle and mist hung around the rest of the game. In an effort to make sure the game wasn’t delayed to another night, both teams went straight to the field with no pre-game warmups.
“This was a big game for us, because it sets up the Regional Legion Tournament,” Troy Post 43 coach Frosty Brown said. “We get the No. 1 seed and will play the fourth-place team, as the rest of the matchups have yet to be finalized. We battled rain, no batting practice, a game delay and a very, very good pitcher to win this one. I’m proud of the guys, because they know they can find ways to win.”
For Post 184, it was a disappointing end to an outstanding effort.
“Unbelievable. I mean, what do you say?” Piqua Post 184 coach Jeff Jennings said. “We were real close to beating them. They just came up with a couple of big plays when they needed them. These boys all just have so much heart. It’s a tough game to lose.”
Piqua (11-11, 2-2 WOL) turned a double play to get out of a first-inning jam, only to see Troy do the same when it threatened in the top of the fourth. For the first half of the game, both Gordon and Troy starter Zach Greenwald tossed matching zeroes until the bottom of the fifth.
Troy (25-8, 5-1 WOL) took the lead in the fifth with the help of an error and a freak play.
Ford led off with a routine ground ball, but the throw to first went into Piqua’s dugout, allowing him to take second. He took third on a groundout for the second out, but then Chris Heisey hit a grounder back up the middle that ricocheted off the pitcher’s mound. With the defense all covering up the middle, it bounced off to where the second baseman had just been, allowing Heisey to reach on an RBI single.
“They didn’t really drive in their runs. We gave them to them,” Jennings said. “They scored off of our errors. They didn’t really hit Cam all night.”
The way it was raining at the time, it seemed likely the game might be called official and cut short. But that didn’t happen — giving Piqua new life.
And in the top of the seventh, Post 184 finally capitalized.
Braydon Dohme singled to lead off, but after a popout and flyout it seemed like Greenwald would find a way out of it again. But Noah Gertner and Travis Smith worked back-to-back walks to load the bases, and Derrick Gullett beat out an infield single to bring home the game-tying run. Andrew Lundvall followed that with a bases-loaded walk, and suddenly Piqua led 2-1 before Ford came on in relief to finally end the inning.
“Zach pitched a superb game,” Brown said. “He stuck out six over the first seven innings. My original plan was for Zach to go the first five or six, then follow with Jackson Ford and Zach Kirby. I got caught up in Greenwald’s effort and let him go a little too far into the seventh.”
Gordon continued to work hard despite his rising pitch count, leaving a Troy runner stranded on second in the sixth and another on third in the seventh to keep Post 184 ahead. But in the eighth, Troy was able to tie the score thanks to another Piqua error.
Michael Hale hit a lazy one-out pop to shallow center, but the second baseman dropped it to put Hale on second base. Trenton Wood walked and Hale went to third on a wild ball four to put runners on the corners, and Cody Harsman pushed a suicide squeeze bunt to first to tie the score at 2-2 going into the ninth.
Post 184 threatened immediately in the ninth against Troy closer Zach Kirby, with Travis Smith leading off with a single and Lundvall and Jesse Wilson drawing walks to load the bases with one out. But Kirby got a strikeout and a flyout to get out of the jam, and the game ended up going extra innings.
“Zach survived a shaky start and just started throwing the ball past people,” Brown said.
The three stranded baserunners in the ninth, meanwhile, brought Piqua’s total up to 15 in the game, and Post 184 finished with 16 runners left stranded — eight of those in scoring position.
“Sixteen guys left on base, no big hits,” Jennings said. “We’ve kind of been like that all year. We’ll get guys on and get them around, but we won’t be able to score them. And I don’t know how many times tonight we had guys on with one out and couldn’t get them in. Troy just made its pitching changes when it needed to and did what it had to do.”
And Gordon — who was already approaching 150 pitches heading into the 10th — finally just ran out of gas.
Brandon Nesbitt drew a leadoff walk to start the Troy 10th, then Hale executed a hit-and-run, ripping the ball to left for a single to put two runners on and finally end Gordon’s night.
“Cam pitched an absolutely great game,” Jennings said. “We just had to get him out then. He didn’t want to come out, wanted to finish the game, but we had to take him out.”
After a pop for the first out, Piqua’s new pitcher got ahead in the count 0-2 on Harsman, but Harsman fouled off six pitches and worked a walk to load the bases. That brought up Ford, who drew a walkoff walk to end the game.
“Piqua played a heck of a ballgame,” Brown said. “But our kids played defense pretty well, and our pitchers threw a lot of zeroes. We got that leadoff runner on in the 10th to put the pressure on them, and we got the win.”
“The first time we played, they jumped out ahead on us early and won 8-5, but this time there was no jumping,” Jennings said. “We’ve played them tough twice now. We’re getting closer.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.