Red Sox repeat as State ‘B’ champions

Red Sox repeat as State 'B' champions by Steven Thum The Vermillion Red Sox won three games in four days at the Birdcage in Sioux Falls to claim their second straight State "B" Amateur Baseball title.

On Thursday night in the quarterfinal round, the Red Sox took on the Lake Norden Lakers. The Red Sox got on the board early against veteran Laker southpaw Paul Raasch. Robin Chute and Brian Boyer opened with back-to-back singles. With Chute on third base, Jeff Verzal, a pickup player from Akron, grounded out to second, which brought home Chute.

After a fielder's choice by Steve Fejfar erased Boyer, Jason Gault came on as the courtesy runner for Fejfar. A double by Cress Murdock would advance Gault to third, and a wild throw coming in from the outfield would allow Gault to score to make it 2-0.

The Red Sox got a scare in the bottom of the first as firstbaseman Jon Merrigan pulled his hamstring while stretching out to complete a doubleplay, but he stayed in the game.

Vermillion starting pitcher Dan Christensen got into a bases-loaded jam in the second, but got out of it by getting Mark Stevenson to ground out to Jon Merrigan at first.

In the top of the fourth, Colby Lessman led off with a solo home run to make it 3-0. A single by Jim Stegge and a double Murdock put two runners in scoring position. Jay Merrigan hit a sacrifice fly to bring home Stegge.

A double by Chute brought home by Murdock to make it 5-0. Chute stole third base, and came home on a Boyer ground out to make it 6-0.

Christensen would run into trouble in the bottom of the fourth as four runs would score. Doubles by Matt Jones and Mike Thyen keyed the rally, and an error in the outfield by Lessman allowed an advancing baserunner to go home from third. The lead had been cut to just two.

Raasch would be lifted in the top of the fifth with one out and a runner on first. Matt Stevenson would come on relief and retire the next two batters to get out of the inning.

Jon Merrigan would reach base on a little infield dribbler that Matt Stevenson fumbled, and would be charged for an error. Robin Chute, one out later, blasted a two-run dinger to make it 8-4.

Matt Pollock led off the bottom of the sixth with a single, and Christensen plunked Mark Stevenson with a pitch to put two runners on, and Christensen's night was over. Rob Miller came on in relief. He would walk the first batter he faced to load the bases with still nobody out.

Miller would get Brian Pommer to hit into a 4-6-3 twin killing that allowed a run to score, but took the wind out of the Lake Norden sails. Miller would retire Matt Stevenson on an infield pop-up, and the score remained at 8-5.

Vermillion would tack on one more run as Jon Merrigan slapped a two-out RBI single in the top of the seventh that brought home Murdock to make it 9-5.

In the bottom of the seventh, Jon Merrigan would make a spectacular catch of a foul ball as he reached over the safety rail in front of the Red Sox dugout.

Miller would get into bases-loaded jams in the eighth and ninth innings, but made the key pitches when it counted, and allowed no runs to score.

Christensen would get the win by going five innings, allowing five runs, four of them earned, on seven hits. He fanned two, walked three, and hit three batters. Miller got the save by pitching four innings of one-hit relief, but he walked six, and struck out three.

Raasch got tagged for the loss by giving up six runs in four and one-third innings.

Chute was a triple short of the cycle, driving in three and scoring three runs on the night. Jon Merrigan doubled, singled, scored twice, and drove in one. Fejfar and Jim Stegge both singled twice, while Colby Lessman singled and homered.

Matt Pollock singled twice, drove in one, and scored two runs for the Lakers.

Vermillion turned two doubleplays. The Lakers would strand 14 baserunners, compared to the Red Sox who left eight men on base.

Red Sox 6, Montrose 4

In the semifinals on Saturday afternoon, the Red Sox squared off against the Montrose Muckdogs.

The Red Sox got on the board first in the bottom of the third as Fejfar hit a two-out single to bring home Boyer.

Vermillion got help from a Montrose miscue as Jim Stegge reached on an error by firstbaseman Jeremy Grady with the bases loaded to make it 2-0. But Muckdogs starting pitcher Jeff Schultz got Jon Merrigan to hit into a doubleplay to end the threat.

Montrose got a big lift right away in the top of the sixth as leadoff man Chad DeBates led off with a solo tater off of Red Sox starter Justin Berg to make it 2-1.

Montrose would tie the game in the top of the seventh as a sacrifice fly by Ryan Gordon brought home Jason Brown, who had doubled, then advanced on a single to get to third base.

After retiring the first two batters in the top of the eighth, Schultz helped his cause by hitting a solo homer to make it 3-2. Jake Kloos would follow with a double, and Berg would be lifted in favor of pickup player Ken Longman of the South Dakota White Sox. A bloop down the right field line by Jeremy Grady would fall just inside the chalk for a double, and Kloos would score to make it 4-2.

The Muckdogs had the momentum, but it would not last. Jeff Schultz walked Jon Merrigan on four straight pitches to start the bottom of the eighth, and Jeremy Schultz would come on in relief. Jay Merrigan would ground out to first, but advance pinch runner Jim McNaughton to second. Chute would single, sending McNaughton to third.

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Chute tried to steal second, but was gunned down by Kloos.

With the game on the line, Boyer would single home McNaughton to cut the lead to one. Dustin Moore smashed a double to bring home the hustling Moore to even the score at 4-4.

Fejfar was intentionally walked, and Gault came on as the courtesy runner for the Red Sox catcher. Murdock delivered a clutch two-out double to plate both Moore and Gault to give the Red Sox the 6-4 lead.

Chad DeBates came on to pitch for the Muckdogs, and fanned Lessman to end the rally, but the damage had been done.

Longman gave up a double to the leadoff batter, Brown, in the top of the ninth. A hard grounder ate up McNaughton at third base to put two runners on base. Ryan Gordon tried to bunt the runners over, but Murdock at first base charged the bunt, and fired to McNaughton at third to get the lead runner.

Longman enticed DeBates and Jeremy Schultz to hit lazy fly balls to center, which were both caught by Jay Merrigan, and the ball game was over.

Boyer, Fejfar, and Murdock all collected two hits for the Red Sox.

Berg allowed four runs on nine hits in his seven and two-thirds innings of work. Ken Longman got the win in relief, allowing just two hits in finishing up the game for the Red Sox.

Vermillion left 12 men on base, while Montrose left four baserunners stranded.

Red Sox 7, Redfield 2

The championship game on Sunday saw the Red Sox matched up against Redfield Dairy Queen, who the Red Sox beat in the semifinals in last year's tournament.

The Red Sox jumped all over Redfield starting pitcher Lonni Stover as Chute led off the game with a single, and Boyer followed with a double to put two runners in scoring position. With one out, Fejfar hit a single that plated both baserunners. Jim McNaugton came on as the courtesy runner, and came home on a two-out single by Colby Lessman to make it 3-0.

Red Sox starter Rob Miller got into a bases-loaded jam with one out in the bottom of the first, but fanned Rich Osborn and got Dan Bures to ground out to end the threat.

Murdock would hit a two-out single to bring home Boyer, who reached base on a leadoff single to make it 4-0.

Miller blanked Redfield through the first four innings, but struggled with his control in the fifth. He gave up a two-out walk to Joel Osborn. Jay Kusler would hit a single, then Keith Gall drew a walk to load the bases. Rich Osborn would single home two to make it 4-2. Another walk would load the bases again, but Miller got pinch hitter Curt Fredricksen to fly out to end the rally.

After a scoreless sixth inning, the Red Sox would put the game out of reach in the seventh. With one out, Jay Merrigan and Chute hit back-to-back singles. A groundout to first by Boyer advanced both baserunners, who would come home on a single by Dustin Moore to make it 6-2.

Redfield tried to rally in the bottom of the seventh as the first two batters would single against Miller, but the righty would retire the next three batters in order.

Ken Longman would come in and pitch in the eighth and hold Redfield scoreless.

With one out in the top of the ninth, Chute put the icing on the cake by hitting a solo homer and knocking Stover out of the game in favor of Terry Tchida, who got out of the inning without allowing any more runs.

Longman got into a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the ninth as he plunked a batter, gave up a single, and after fanning a batter, saw Moore commit an error at second.

But Bures grounded to Murdock at third, who threw the ball to Moore at second for the second out of inning. Moore was wiped out by the Redfield baserunner, but still managed to throw the ball to Jon Merrigan at first.

The throw brought Merrigan off the bag, but he had the presence of mind to catch the ball and tag the batter all in one motion for the third and final out. The ball game was over with Vermillion on top 7-2.

The team swarmed on to the field to celebrate their second straight "B" title.

"When we started, we felt like this was our game," said Red Sox manager Kirk Sorensen. "We put the press on them early, made big plays and got the pitching we needed."

Miller got the win by going seven innings for the Red Sox, allowing two runs on eight hits. Ken Longman pitched two scoreless innings to finish the game.

It was interesting to note that Longman pitched for many years for one of the Red Sox's main rivals, Lennox Heartland Medical. That team disbanded after last season, with Longman moving on to the over-38 South Dakota White Sox for this season. Longman was picked up by the Red Sox for the state tournament, and closed out the last two games.

Chute singled twice, homered, and scored three runs to lead the Red Sox offense. Boyer doubled, singled twice, and scored two runs. Moore reached base four times, twice on singles, a walk, and he was hit by a Stover pitch. Moore drove in two runs. Jay Merrigan singled twice and scored once. Murdock singled twice, driving in one run.

Vermillion left six men on base, while Redfield stranded 13 baserunners. Both teams turned one doubleplay.

Chute was named the "B" tournament MVP. Colby Lessman just missed out on the batting title, losing by just a few percentage points to Redfield's Jay Kusler. Chute as a close third in that race.

The Red Sox finish their championship season with a 29-6 record.

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