HALF AND HALF: Troy Post 70 19U team splits games in second day of American Legion Freedom Classic

Published 3:00 am Saturday, July 4, 2015

Tyler Sheehan eyes the ball during Post 70 19U’s first game of the day against Jacksonville Post 88. MESSENGER PHOTO/SCOTTIE BROWN

Tyler Sheehan eyes the ball during Post 70 19U’s first game of the day against Jacksonville Post 88.


Routine plays and fly balls kept the Troy Post 70 19U team and the Jacksonville Post 88 team at stalemate for the majority of three innings during their first game on Friday.

After three-up three-down innings from both teams, Troy Post 70 got the game going in the bottom of the third inning. Troy second baseman Rush Hixon created the momentum for with a base hit. A third-base line drive from Tyler Sheehan and a fumbled ball from the Post 88 left fielder led Hixon around the bases and into home plate. The scoring didn’t stop there for the team with Dustin Jordan earning a base hit and RBI sending Sheehan home. With a wild throw from the Post 88 pitcher, Sheehan capitalized on the error and gained two more bases placing him in scoring position on third. Trace Johnson singled for the next at bat and brought in Jordan inching Troy’s lead to 3-0.

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Troy Post 70 19U head coach John Rushing said the inning came at a crucial time as both teams had become lax on the field.

“It really all started on the mound, today,” Rushing said. “Zach Lightsey did a great job on the mound and that kind of set the tone for us to kind of settle in and then we had our two big innings. It’s always really important to keep the game where one swing of the bat won’t tie it up if it happens.”

The bats fell silent for Troy in the bottom of the fourth, but a quick top of the fifth brought a two-out rally for the Troy team in the bottom of the fifth. Having tacked on two on the board with two outs, the Troy team capitalized on a shaky pitching performance from Jacksonville’s starting pitcher putting a total of four runs up on the board bringing Troy’s lead to 7-0.

Rushing said the team’s ability to capitalize on other team’s mistakes and watch the ball for the right pitch was something they had been working on.

“To be able to go from being up 3-0 to up 7-0, that was big for us,” Rushing said. “It puts a little more pressure on them to go out there and put runners on. We can at least feel a little more comfortable. Anytime you can add to a lead, it just kind of makes it more deflating for the other team, and that’s always good for us.”

Post 88 did not go quietly, however. In the top of the sixth inning, the Jacksonville team countered Troy’s seven unanswered runs with a two-out rally of their own. After Jacksonville’s leadoff batter reached the bag on a single, a routine infield play and a pop fly to left field appeared to be the nail in the coffin for Jacksonville in the sixth. But, Jacksonville’s fourth-hole hitter provided a base hit for their leadoff, bringing him home and scoring the team’s only run of the game.

In their first three outings of the tournament, Rushing said he was pleased with how his team looked both offensively and defensively especially against a team who made an appearance at the World Series last year.

“I was proud of our first game today,” Rushing said. “That is a good team right there. They won the State of Florida last year and won southeast regional last year, so that’s a team that knows how to win. I was proud at the way the guys responded after yesterday, because I thought we were really sluggish yesterday.”

The Troy team was back in action at 5 p.m. Friday, but a sluggish start and several fielding errors led to a 5-4 loss to Rockdale Post 77. Rushing said his team’s performance from noon to 5 p.m. had turned a complete 180, something he wasn’t accustomed to seeing.

“I thought we let the ball game get away from us tonight,” Rushing said. “We had runners on second and third in the fourth inning with a chance to put the game away, and we hit two weak ground balls back to the pitcher. This team is not ready to be a championship baseball team and we have less than a month to make it happen.”

The team, who is 2-2, will have Independence Day off, and Rushing said he hoped his boys would come back stronger and ready to play for Sunday’s round of games.

“They don’t really have a good idea of what to do to try to win, and until they learn that that’s going to be the result,” Rushing said. “We’re going to be a 50-50 baseball team until we learn to do what we need to. I hope that we’ll have some kind of turn around and some kind of difference on Sunday.”