The storm’s rain peppered Hardman Field in Piqua last Monday night. Its lightning strikes flashed far and wide. Its high winds swirled down from the levy and bent trees while splitting a few branches.
Undeterred by the oncoming weather and the inconvenience of having to finish on Tuesday, Sidney Post 217 used a pair of fresh pitchers— right hander Gabe Link from Marion Local and lefty Gavin Roberts from Sidney— to pepper the strike zone with lightning quick fast balls, sharp bending curves, and even a few nasty splitters.
As a result, Sidney — now 17-16-1 on the summer — breezed to a 7-3 win over Troy Post 43 and an easy Region II tournament title, the local legion team’s sixth such championship since 2016. No season or tournament was held in 2020 because of the health crisis.
This region crown, Sidney’s fourth straight, qualifies Post 217 for the American Legion state tournament on Monday. In addition, Post 217 scored its seventh win in the last eight head-to-head meetings with Troy since last July.
“Our pitching was lined up and ready to go,” said Sidney first-year head coach Jacob Peters. “We smoothly overcame the one weekend rainout that pushed back our Sunday game to Monday, and then we dealt with the weather that stretched the title game to two nights.”
Peters added “Extremely proud of our guys,” when asked about his 2023 Post 217 team. “We played a rugged schedule outside the district slate, which was also very competitive. Over one 12-day period, we battled 10 or 11 different opponents.”
Post 217 also took part in several extended weekend tournaments that included pool play, a semifinal and then a championship Sunday. Beginning in late June, Sidney played six games in four-and-a-half days in the Vandalia-Butler Best of Ohio Showcase and earned first place.
“We were battle-tested and very well-prepared for our district in Piqua,” Peters stated.
And it showed. In the first two innings of the title game versus Troy, Peters’ squad tallied five runs. Troy’s sloppy play aided Sidney’s cause.
Post 217 parlayed eight singles, eight more walks, a couple hit batsmen and three Troy errors into a two-run first inning, three more in the second, and single tallies in the fifth and sixth frames. Sidney left a dozen runners on base and could have scored more.
Joel Gehret from Versailles led the charge with two hits. Also chipping in with base knocks were six additional players — Roberts, Link, Noah McEldowney from Versailles High School, Brayden Monnin from Russia, Zander Mason from Piqua and David Brunner from Lehman. McEldowney and AJ Griesdorn from Versailles swiped bases.
Troy centerfielder Connor Price cranked out two of the six base hits for Post 43. His triple was the longest clout of the game.
Link fired three strong innings for Sidney on Monday. Roberts concluded the two-day affair with four frames of solid work on Tuesday. The duo whiffed six, using numerous two- and four-seam fastballs, mixed with deceptive breaking pitches.
The defensive gem of the night came in the Troy sixth when Post 217’s McEldowney roamed far behind second from his shortstop position to snare in the webbing of his mitt a well struck, high bounding ball that was ticketed for center. At the time, Troy had runners at first and third with none out and was threatening to produce a big inning.
McEldowney followed his superb glove work with a clever pivot and pitch to Monnin at second for a crucial force out. With that dazzling play, Troy’s comeback bid was immediately halted. Falling behind by five early, Troy never got within four runs of Sidney after the second inning.
“Pitching and defense usually decide a baseball game between two competitive clubs,” Peters said. “We got leads in both district games against Troy. Then, our depth on the mound and steady play in the field took control.”
Tuesday’s resumption of the Monday suspended game took about 90 minutes to complete. Action was picked up with Sidney in front, 5-1, and batting with two out in the bottom of the third inning.
“Gabe got us to Tuesday with a nice start and then Gavin carried us over the finish line,” Peters said.
Troy Post 43 had worked its way back through the losers bracket last weekend by beating Piqua Post 184 twice, 5-4 and 7-6, around a second game defeat at the hands of Sidney.
Post 217 wound up with an excellent 6-2 mark in eight tilts this summer against district foes Piqua, Troy and Greenville.