By Rob Kiser
TROY — In the opening round of American Legion, District 2 tournament play Thursday night at Duke Park, Sidney Post 217 came through with some timely hits and big plays defensively against Piqua Post 184.
That, combined with a complete game from Dan Borchers, gave Sidney a 5-1 victory.
Sidney, 25-9, was scheduled to play Troy in the winner’s bracket final at Hardman Field Thursday, while Piqua, 18-16, traveled to Greenville for an elimination game with Post 140.
“We talked about getting big hits and needing to make plays defensively,” Sidney coach Jim Koewler said. “And that’s what we did tonight.”
And he understood how big Wednesday’s win was.
“Absolutely,” Koewler said. “We came into this tournament feeling like we could win it and we still do.”
In the first meeting of the two teams, Piqua had won 6-0 on a shutout by Travis Smith.
The second meeting was scoreless until Sidney scored the winning run in the ninth.
And for four innings Wednesday night, it was more of the same — with Sidney and Piqua tied 1-1.
But, in the fifth, Sidney broke through with three straight RBI singles with two outs to make a 2-1 game 5-1 and neither team would score again.
“Take one inning away and it is 1-1,” Piqua Post 184 co-coach Justin Jennings said. “It was their third time seeing Travis (Smith). And it is not that he didn’t pitch well. They just timed him up. We shut them out the first time and lost 1-0 the second time.”
Jace Barga had started the inning with a single and with one out, Cole Proffitt lined a double down the left-field line to give Sidney a 2-1 lead.
After Owen Leugers singles to put runners on first and third and Smith got a pop out, Cameron Jenkins, Austin McLain and Kyle Subler had consecutive RBI singles to put Sidney up 5-1.
“Those were three big hits,” Koewler said. “I had told the kids at the beginning of the season, we are going to be in a lot of games so you might as well get used to it.”
Arron Boerger came in to get the final out and held Sidney scoreless the rest of the way.
“Arron (Boerger) came in and did a nice job and stop the bleeding,” Jennings said.
Piqua had a chance to get back in the game in the eighth inning, but questionable base running and a web-gem by Barga in left field prevented Post 184 from scoring, despite three hits in the inning.
Dylan Arnold and Frankie Quintero had back-to-back singles to start the inning, but Dakota Bollinger caught Arnold off second base with his throw from right field for the first out.
Boerger then drilled a double to put runners on second and third.
“Arron (Boerger) just continues to hit the ball hard right at people,” Jennings said. “He got one over the outfielders head for a double on his third at bat.”
Barga then made a diving catch in left field which turned into an inning-ending double play.
“What a great play by Jace (Barga),” Koewler said. “I didn’t think he was going to be able to get there, but he did.”
Sidney had taken a 1-0 lead in the second on another two-out hit.
McLain singled, move to second on a walk to Subler and scored on Josh Koppin’s single.
Piqua tied it in the third when Austin Arnold single, Dylan Arnold sacrificed him to second and Quintero drilled a RBI single.
“He (Frankie Quintero) had three hits tonight,” Jennings said. “He swung the bat well.”
It stayed that way until Sidney’s timely hitting in the fifth.
McLain had three hits and was on base four times for Post 217, while Barga had two hits to go with his defense.
Borchers pitched a 10-hitter, striking out five and not walking a batter.
“Dan (Borchers) didn’t have his best stuff, but he did a nice job of getting through it,” Koewler said. “The loss to Piqua, we had an inning where we gave up two runs on walks and hit batters. We talked about that.”
Dylan Arnold added two hits for Piqua, while Smith and Boerger combined on an 11-hitter, striking out two and walking one.
Sidney had three doubles, two ending innings to keep a run from scoring.
“We had 10 hits and scored one run,” Jennings said. “Base running was a big factor in this game.”
And Post 184 must regroup quickly.
“I don’t know any bigger motivator,” Jennings said. “Another loss and we are done for the season.”
And the formula Sidney used Wednesday, could go a long way for both teams during the rest of the tournament.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.