By Josh Brown
TROY — It almost seemed fitting that the play the decided such a sloppy game happened in such a contentious manner.
Troy Post 43 rallied from an early 5-0 deficit and got the potential tying run literally an inch away from home plate in the bottom of the seventh inning, with a dropped popup right in front of the plate causing Piqua Post 184 to throw the ball around the infield. But that tying run was called out at the plate on a controversial play and Piqua held on from there to win 8-7 and complete a season sweep of rival Troy.
With the score 8-7 Piqua with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Troy’s Frankie Gmuca reached on an error and stole second base to get into scoring position. Anthony Steele — who was 3 for 5 with an RBI in the game — popped it up a mere foot in front of the plate, but Piqua reliever Logan Harris dropped the ball. Steele took off for second, prompting a throw from catcher Joe McGillivary — and Gmuca headed for home.
Post 184 shortstop Dylan Arnold quickly fired home, but his throw was high, forcing second baseman Will Eversole, who was covering the plate, to leap straight up to get it. Gmuca slid in underneath as Eversole landed on him — and the umpire ruled that a tag had been made and that it came in time, calling the runner out to end the inning.
Naturally, neither side saw the play the same way.
“That’s a play that, when you’re seeing it happen, it happens so fast, and you leave that up to the umpire, obviously,” Piqua Post 184 coach Justin Jennings said. “I had a pretty good view of it, and I saw the tag. As Will Eversole jumped up in the air, caught it and came down, I saw the tag pretty clearly. It’s controversial either way, whether he got in there safely or not.”
“Oh, I know I wasn’t wrong about my argument,” said Troy Post 43 coach Frosty Brown, who got in a lengthy argument with the umpire after the call. “I know that throw was high, and I know we got under it.”
It was the key play in an ugly game for both sides — a game that featured a combined 13 errors, five hit batters and 12 walks, but only 15 hits.
Troy Post 43 (3-3, 0-2 Western Ohio League), which lost 12-2 to Piqua last week in the WOL opener for both teams, committed seven of those errors, only allowing one earned run in the game.
“We really have to quit making so many errors,” Brown said. “We had seven. All the outfielders had an error, all the infielders had an error. The only person in the field that didn’t make an error was the first baseman. On the very first play of the game, we kicked the ball around and that turned into two runs. We just have to grow up a little bit and overcome it.”
Piqua’s Arnold reached on an error to lead off the game and was immediately driven in on an RBI double by Howie Ludwig, who eventually scored on a balk to make it 2-0 after one. And in the third, a Michael Ashcraft double put runners on second and third, but it took a dropped fly ball in center with two outs to bring them home, and an error in right on a single by Dakota Iddings made it a 5-0 game.
Troy got back into the game in the bottom of the third, though, as singles by Keaton Mohler (3 for 5, double, three runs) and Steele and an error loaded the bases, then Piqua starter Josh Osterholt hit Dustin Myers and Ian Yunker to drive in runs and make it 5-2.
Piqua got its lone earned run of the game in the fourth on a two-out double by Travis Smith and RBI single by McGillivary, but Post 43 answered with three in the bottom of the inning. Singles by Jacob Duncan and Mohler and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases with no outs, then Steele hit an RBI single, Trevor Collins an RBI groundout and Myers an RBI sac fly to get Troy to within a run.
But Piqua pulled right back out in front by getting single runs in the fifth and sixth innings. An error in left field led to an RBI groundout by Eversole in the fifth, then an errant throw by the catcher in the sixth allowed another run to score and make it 8-5 Post 184.
“We beat them 12-2 last week, but they didn’t play like that tonight,” Jennings said. “We came out strong hitting, but we didn’t finish very well. We hopped on them early, but they didn’t give up. But the thing that really kept us ahead in the game was that, no matter what, when they scored, we scored at least one to answer. That was good to see.”
Post 43 cut into the lead again in the sixth, scoring on an error and a bases-loaded walk by Austin Kendall to make it 8-7 — which only set up the game-decoding play in the bottom of the seventh. From there, Harris retired the final six batters he faced to wrap up a three-inning save, preserving the win for starter Osterholt.
“Right now, we’re still in that stage where we’ve got to be better by the end of the season when it counts,” Brown said. “We’re getting better at that (fighting back after falling behind), but the problem is where we don’t string enough quality at-bats together. I’m still experimenting and trying to find out who I can count on and who I can’t. Some guys perform better under pressure, and some guys don’t. I’m still finding out who is who.”
The win made Piqua Post 184 6-3 on the season and 2-0 to start WOL play with the sweep of Troy.
“I don’t think we’ve done that in at least five years,” Jennings said. “So that’s great. That’s huge. It’s good to get up on the league like that. It feels good to get on them early — usually, they get us.”
Troy Post 43 has one more game Wednesday night at Springfield Armaloy before returning to Duke Park to host the Miami Valley Veterans Appreciation Tournament Friday through Sunday.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.