BY GREG FLINT
The championship game of the American Legion Pony League between Toyota of Danville and REG Renewables was a classic pitcher’s duel. The hurlers for both squads combined to throw 32 strike outs in a contest where Toyota won 3-1.
Taylor Turner threw 20 strikeouts in getting 21 outs for Toyota while Noah Nelson struck out a dozen for REG.
Yet the game started as if it might be anything but such a duel as Cade Robinson drew a leadoff walk for REG. Turner struck out the next batter, but two errors by Toyota allowed Nelson and Colton Castongue to reach base – loading them – with just the one out.
Turner then struck out the next two batters to retire the side with no damage done.
“They had a chance on our mistakes in the first inning,” said Toyota head coach Troy Hoshauer. “But we settled down from there.”
Toyota got their leadoff hitter on with a walk to start the bottom half of the inning, but he was picked off on a throw from Nelson to Castongue. The next two batters were strikeouts to end the inning.
The second inning had six strikeouts. The third had five with the only other out being a tag at second on Lukas Hoshauer of Toyota when he tried to steal after getting a walk.
REG went down in order on strikes in the top of the fourth, but in the bottom of the inning, Toyota picked up three runs.
It all started when Caden Billingsley walked and turned toward second. REG threw to first, but the ball went into foul territory letting Billingsley race onward.
“My coaches saw it went past the first baseman so they sent me,” said Billingsley of the play. “The coaches waved me on to third.”
Skylar Bolton followed with a chopper that went over the head of pitcher Nelson and took so long to come down that it was an infield hit, scoring Billingsley.
That brought up Trent Hicks who singled to put runners on first and second. Jason Bowman walked to load the bases and Lukas Hoshauer singled to score Bolton and Hicks to make it 3-0.
No one scored again until Nelson tripled for REG in the sixth and scored when the Toyota outfielder bobbled the ball to make it 3-1.
That was the lone hit given up by Turner in the game.
Six of the final seven batters were outs with just one walk allowed, so the game ended 3-1 with Toyota on top.
It was the second year in a row that REG was in the championship game according to head coach Jim Robinson.
“It was a lot of fun to coach these guys,” said the fifth-year mentor. “We ended 16-4 and won our division so it was a good season. We gave it all we’ve got, but it just wasn’t good enough today.”
One reason was the pitching of Turner, who said it was the second time this season that he threw 20 strikeouts in a game.
Asked what he was doing to get so many strikeouts, he shrugged and explained.
“I pretty much just threw fastballs and they hit the spots,” he said. “I just tried to throw what my coach told me to throw and it worked.”
For Toyota coach Troy Hoshauer, it was the end of a good season.
“We were 15-1 and in those sixteen games, we gave up only 31 runs,” he explained. “We expected a pitcher’s duel and got one as both guys threw great. We tried to make every opportunity we could and we took advantage of enough to get the win.
“We stress defense and small ball. We try to play aggressively, especially in a game like this one and it paid off.”
Greg Flint is a freelance writer/photographer for the Commercial-News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org