BOWLING GREEN — It may not have been one for the recordbooks, but it certainly was a season for the storybooks.
The Troy Post 43 Legends wrapped up their 2020 season over the weekend at the Bowling Green State University Elite World Series, reaching the semifinal round before falling 4-0 to the Ohio Hitmen to finish with a .500 overall record in the strangest of coach Frosty Brown’s 50 years in coaching.
The season almost didn’t happen after Ohio’s high school baseball teams saw their spring season canceled due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. The American Legion then officially canceled its national and state tournaments, technically canceling the season overall. But a handful of local teams were able to organize their own season, and the Legends played 53 games, going 26-26-1.
“When you look back on this season, we have to first of all be proud that we played when a number of local teams didn’t and every national and state organization failed to start up,” Brown said. “We wanted the opportunity to play, and we took on many teams made up of college players. We played anyone and everyone who would schedule us.
“We lost $30,000 in fundraising, but we survived by playing more home games and hosting more tournaments. I had a great coaching staff. And we owe our survival to my wife, Connie, for her efforts at the concession stand which has kept us financially solvent.
The Legends opened the BGSU Elite World Series on Friday by defeating the eventual tournament champion Michigan Monarchs 7-3. Grant Saunders took care of business on the mound, scattering three hits and striking out eight in 6 1-3 innings of works, with all three Monarch runs being unearned.
Troy trailed 3-1 in the top of the seventh, but a pair of walks and a hit-batter loaded the bases with one out. After a strikeout for the second out, Colton Francis was hit by a pitch to make it a one-run game, and then Cam Swartout tied the game with an RBI single. Another walk put Troy up 4-3 and kept the bases loaded for Jonny Baileys, who hit a three-run double to seal the win, with Warren Hartzell recording the final two outs on the mound in the bottom of the inning.
The Legends played a pair of games Saturday, beginning with a 1-0 loss to the Ohio Hitmen. Hartzell pitched a one-hitter, but an error and two straight passed ball brought in the game’s only run in the third inning. Hartzell struck out nine and walked one.
In Saturday’s second game, Troy defeated Cincinnati Legion 6-2 to earn a spot in the semifinal round. Nick Garber pitched five innings and gave up two unearned runs to get the win, and Keith Orndorff pitched the final two innings with a pair of strikeouts for a save.
On Sunday, the Legends found themselves matched up against the Hitmen again in the semis — and Troy gave up three in the first inning to fall behind quickly. Darius Boeke then held the Hitmen scoreless until the sixth when they added one more insurance run, but the Legends again couldn’t get the job done at the plate with 12 pop or routine fly balls for easy outs in the game.
And even though the Legends faced a number of abnormal challenges in 2020, they can still say that they had a 2020 season.
“Luckily we had everything ready when the pandemic hit, but 2020 was a challenge every day,” Brown said. “Rescheduling games, more field prep and taking on so many older teams with a squad of 15 sophomores and juniors and only three seniors was tough.
“We really accomplished our basic goal, though — we played!”