SIDNEY — A pitcher’s duel in an American Legion regional tournament game on Sunday at Custenborder Field came down to two late mistakes — both of which Sidney Post 217 benefited from.
Leadoff hitter Austin McClain beat a throw to first to start a two-run inning in the fifth and Darren Hoying took advantage of a throwing error in the sixth to add a run and help Sidney beat Troy Post 43 3-0 in a Region 2 tournament game.
Sidney (18-13) advances to face Van Wert Post 178 in a game in the winner’s bracket at 7:30 p.m. on Monday at Custenborder Field. With the loss, Troy Post 43 drops to the consolation bracket and will face Greenville Post 140 at 5 p.m. on Monday.
McClain beat a bunt single off Troy pitcher Jacob Duncan to put runners on second and first in the fifth. After Dion Puthoff hit into a fielder’s choice and Hunter Cohee grounded out, Kyle Noble hit a one-run single to left field to put Post 217 up 1-0.
Jack Heitbrink followed with a single that fell in front of Post 43 center fielder Noah Brown, who dove to try and make a catch. The single allowed McClain to score from third.
“They did their job being in the middle of our order,” Post 217 coach Daulton Mosbarger said of Noble and Heitbrink’s RBI singles. “Jack Dapore did a great job getting on (with a walk) to get us going at the bottom of our order, and Austin McClain did a great job to keep us going.”
Heitbrink fell behind 1-2 early, but Mosbarger gave him credit for fouling off a few pitches before hitting the single.
It was a pitcher duel’s before Sidney’s big inning in the bottom of the fifth. Post 217 starter Cole Niekamp and Troy Post 43 starter Troy Powers allowed two hits apiece in the first 5 1/2. Powers was removed after walking Dapore to start the fifth, and Duncan allowed four hits over the last two innings.
“We could have been out of the (fifth) inning if we’d thrown the guy out on the bunt,” Post 43 coach Frosty Brown said. “If you don’t make plays and give away extra outs, that can hurt. That’s the way baseball is.”
Hoying hit a one-out double in the sixth that bounced off the left-field fence after one hop. He then stole third and scored after a throwing error by Troy.
Niekamp retired Post 43 in order in the seventh to finish a complete game. He allowed two hits in seven innings and struck out two with three walks and one hit batter.
“He hadn’t thrown for us in a minute,” Mosbarger said. “He kind of came out and got his feet wet a little bit. He struggled through those first few innings but he shut it down when he needed to. The last part of the game there, he was really locked in and making quality pitches for us.”
Troy’s best chance to score came in the second inning.
Brandon Wilson led off the second with a double to left field, and after Duncan flied out, Austin Kendall drew a walk. Jacob Arthur then struck out, but Wilson and Duncan advanced to third and second on a balk. Perry Casto grounded out to end the inning.
“That’s been our problem all year — we don’t capitalize when guys are in scoring position,” Brown said. “We don’t hit the ball hard. We strike out or we pop up. That’s been a battle all year that we’ve been trying to fight, get somebody to step up and hit it hard. That’s the difference between really good teams and ones that are just average.”
Wilson hit a single on a grounder to center field to lead off Troy in the fourth and later stole second, but the next three batters went down in order. Post 43 had one base runner the last three innings.
Mosbarger credited Sidney’s infielders for solid play to help Niekamp keep the shutout.
“Our defense today was excellent,” Mosbarger said. “That right there is the blueprint on how to win a close game in the tournament — good pitching, good defense and timely hitting. Anytime you don’t allow a team to score, you’re doing something right.”
Post 217 will try for its third win this season over Van Wert (18-7). Sidney, which is the top seed in the tournament, rallied from an early deficit to beat Van Wert 3-2 on the road last Wednesday. The win helped Post 217 claim the Western Ohio League title and earn the No. 1 seed.
Van Wert, the region’s No. 2 seed, beat Greenville 13-6 on Saturday to advance to the game.
“Anytime you can have one pitcher throw the whole game is a benefit to the whole team, but Van Wert is a good club,” Mosbarger said. “We’ve been fortunate enough to win two one-run games against them this year. It’s tough to beat a team three times, so we’re going to have to be locked in and ready to go.”
If Sidney wins Monday, it won’t play again until Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Custenborder. A loss against Van Wert would drop Post 217 to the consolation bracket and put them in a game against the Troy/Greenville winner on Tuesday at 7.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.