TROY — The last time Troy Post 43 faced Sidney Post 217’s Daniel Kearns, they got to him for three runs in one inning and made that stand up.
Monday’s matchup was different.
“We didn’t get to him this time,” Troy Post 43 coach Frosty Brown said. “Not at all.”
Kearns pitched a two-hit shutout Monday night in the winner’s bracket final of the American Legion Region 2 tournament, advancing Sidney Post 217 to the championship round by wrapping up a 5-0 victory over Troy Post 43 at Duke Park.
Troy (28-19-1) remained alive in the tournament and faced Greenville Post 178 in the loser’s bracket final Tuesday night. The winner of that game will face Sidney on Wednesday, needing to defeat Post 217 on back-to-back nights to win the title, while Sidney is one victory away.
And Kearns played a large part in putting Post 217 (14-13) in that position.
The starter, who lost a 3-2 decision back on July 2 despite only allowing five hits in the effort, kept Post 43 off balance all night long and frustrated the Legends’ entire lineup. He walked one and only struck out four on the night, but the defense did the job behind him as Post 43 never got a runner past second base on the night.
“Tonight was the opposite of that last game,” Sidney Post 217 coach Daulton Mosbarger said. “I sat out here a couple weeks ago and told them we didn’t play good enough defense, we didn’t hit with guys on base, and Dan, other than one inning, pitched just like he did tonight. Tonight, we played exceptional defense and we got hits when we needed them. we still left way too many guys on base, but when Dan’s pitching like that, you only need so many runs.
“He was lights out. A two-hit shutout, and he really had it all working tonight. Darren Hoying did a great job behind the plate, too — Darren called the game for him, and Dan didn’t shake him off too many times. They’ve got a good relationship, and it really showed tonight with how effective Dan was.”
Troy only managed a two-out single by Austin Kendall in the second inning and a two-out double by Brandon Wilson and walk by Ian Yunker in the fourth against Kearns Monday night — and Kearns retired the final 10 batters straight to finish off the game.
“We didn’t get to him today. We didn’t hit the ball very well,” Brown said. “We made some mistakes that you can’t make. We made some pitching mistakes — and truthfully, we had a chance to get beat worse. We got out of a couple of bases-loaded situations. We’ve been doing that and dodging the bullet lately, but they (Sidney) put the ball in play tonight and didn’t strike out much.
“We only struck out four times, but we had a lot of pop ups (11). One ball hit to the third baseman, so their defense didn’t have to do much work.”
And after leaving a runner stranded on third with no outs in the first inning, Sidney got all the runs it would need in the second.
Bryce Kennedy was hit by a pitch to lead off and Jarred Siegle drew a one-out walk to put two on, and Hoying brought them both home by ripping a two-run double past Troy’s diving left fielder to put Post 217 ahead. Mitchell Larger then singled and Evan Monnier drove in Hoying with a single, making the score 3-0 after two.
In the third, Kurt Rutschilling singled to lead off, moved to second on a groundout and stole third. But after Jack Heitbrink drew a walk, Rutschilling got caught in a rundown that ended with two Sidney runners standing on third base, erasing one of them. Back-to-back walks to Siegle and Hoying loaded the bases, though, and Larger was hit by a pitch to force in a run before Post 43 got out of the jam.
Sidney loaded the bases with no outs in the fifth on three straight singles, but Troy reliever Jonny Baileys got a strikeout and two popouts to escape without any further damage. But in the sixth, Zach Griesdorn beat out a leadoff infield single, moved to third on a double by Kyle Noble and scored on an RBI sac fly by Kennedy to make the score 5-0 — plenty of support for Kearns to close out the game.
On the night, Sidney got the leadoff batter on base in all six innings, while all three of Troy’s total baserunners came with two outs.
“You’ve got to get the engine started somehow,” Mosbarger said. “That’s great. That’s what the leadoff guy is supposed to do, no matter if you’re the in No. 1 or No. 9 spot in the lineup. You lead off by getting on and it really makes a difference.”
Troy starter Ben Spangler and reliever Jake Francis each lasted 1 1-3 innings, with Spangler giving up three runs on one hit, one walk and one hit-batter and Francis giving up one run on two hits and three walks. Baileys finished the final 3 1-3 innings, hitting one batter and allowing one run on five hits with two strikeouts.
It all put Troy Post 43 in a must-win situation Tuesday night against Greenville, with the winner facing Sidney again on Wednesday.
“We’re going to come back,” Brown said. “We’ve been a team that has had to work its butt off all year long, so we’re willing to work our way out of it.”
Reach Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.