By Rob Kiser
Call Sports Editor
SIDNEY — Piqua American Legion Post 184 coach Jim Roberts never doubted his team in the opening round of the District American Legion baseball tournament Thursday night at Custenborder Field.
And Noah Gertner couldn’t have been more excited to be in the position he found himself in.
The Piqua senior-to-be brought home what would be the winning run in ninth inning as Post 184 rallied from a 5-0 deficit in the final three innings to defeat Sidney Post 217 9-6.
Piqua will play Troy 43 at 7 p.m. Friday in the winner’s bracket final of the double-elimination tournament at Sidney High School, while Greenville and Sidney will play in the loser’s bracket game at Custenborder at the same time.
“This was unbelievable,” Gertner said. “Hopefully, we can ride this momentum. It would be cool to get to the state tournament and go deep into it.”
Piqua’s odds for that still looked long going to the ninth inning.
After Piqua had scored three runs in the seventh and one in the eighth, Post 184 still trailed 6-4 going to the ninth.
The inning started with Jake Turner singling and Jeff Paul reaching on an error.
Following a sacrifice bunt by Gabe Wills to put the tying runs in scoring position, Taylor Baumeister walked to load the bases.
Brandon Kirk drilled a RBI single and when the relay throw went to the backstop, Paul hustled home to tie the game.
That brought Gertner up with Baumeister on third and Kirk on second.
With the infield pulled in, Gertner hit a rocket off the shortstop’s glove to score Baumeister and give Piqua the lead.
“I knew I just needed to get a hit,” Gertner said. “It felt great (to come up with the big hit).”
Post 184 wasn’t done.
Kirk would steal home to make it 8-6.
“We noticed the catcher was throwing from his knees,” Roberts said. “Brandon said something to me and I said, ‘if you can get halfway, go.’ That’s exactly what happened.”
Brandon Wysong added a RBI double to make it 9-6 before being cut down trying to stretch it to a triple.
“That was a shot,” Roberts said. “That’s as far as you can hit it without leaving the park. Fortunately, we were able to get the big inning (in the ninth).”
Dan Borchers had a single in the home ninth, but that is all Post 217 could get off Cam Gordon, who got the finale five outs to pick up the win.
“Cam (Gordon) loves to close,” Roberts said.
For six innings, Sidney had been in complete control.
In the first, Josh Koppin had a leadoff walk for Post 217 and came around to score on a dropped fly ball.
Piqua starter Peyton Cartwright probably deserved a better fate in the third, when Sidney made it 5-0.
After an error and a single by Jace Barga, a throwing error on Isaiah Counts bunt made it 3-0.
After a single by Jacob Wenning, Luke Turner would enter for Post 184.
On his first pitch, Dakota Bollinger’s suicide squeeze scored a run.
Following a single by Corey Smith, Mitch Gigandet had a sacrifice fly to make it 5-0.
Roberts had a message for his team after the innings, saying there was still a lot of baseball to play.
“I did say that,” Roberts said. “But, I didn’t expect it to be like this.”
Turner kept Post 184 in the game, pitching into the eighth inning and allowing just one run.
Wenning singled in the seventh and came around to score on a wild pitch.
“Luke (Turner) just did a tremendous job,” Roberts said. “To enter the third in that situation and only give up a couple runs. He really gave us a great effort.”
And Piqua’s defense came to life.
After Wills gunned down a runner from righthfield on flyout for a double play in the fifth, Gertner did the same from left field in the seventh.
“I was just hoping I had enough on it,” Gertner said with a laugh.
Still, Lehman pitcher Cole Proffitt was dominating Piqua on the mound, facing the minimum 18 batters through the first six innings and allowing just one hit.
“We have had strong pitching and defense all season,” Roberts said. “To get two inning-ending double plays in three innings was huge.”
Gertner started a three-run rally in the seventh with a single and Aaron Boerger followed with a single.
Wysong had a RBI single, Boerger scored on an error and Jake Turner had a RBI single to make 5-3.
After Sidney scored in the home seventh, Piqua got it back in the eighth.
After Wills and Baumeister reached on errors, Gertner had a RBI single to make it 6-4.
Counts entered the game for Sidney and got out of the jam, before Piqua broke the game open in the ninth.
“Noah (Gertner) had a huge night,” Roberts said. “He really had a big game.”
Cartwright, Luke Turner and Gordon combined on an eight-hitter, walking seven and striking out four.
Gertner had three hits and two RBIs, while Jake Turner was 2-for-2.
Proffitt and Counts combined on a 10-hitter for Sidney, striking out seven walking two.
Smith, Barga and Wenning had two hits for Sidney and Dalton Bollinger had a double.
“That (the rally) is our team,” Roberts said. “Tonight is the way we have played all year.”
And they will look for more as they head into the Troy game with a 27-9 record — and plenty of momentum.