VHS baseball advances to Regions with Friday win By Parker Knox
Sports Writer A three-run fourth inning ignited by a pair of successful bunts put Vermillion ahead to stay Friday as the Tanagers eliminated Dakota Valley, 8-6, to win Region 1Bâ�?�?s Eastern Division and advance to the regional title game in Parkston Monday. Coach Jason Gaultâ�?�?s Tanagers improved their record to 9-4 behind a gutsy complete-game pitching effort by Tyler Johnson.�? Though he gave up 13 hits, Johnson retired Panther batters when he had to, including in the final inning when he closed out the visitors with the tying runners on base. â�?�?Tyler did exactly what we wanted him to do,â�? Gault said in praising his junior hurlerâ�?�?s job on the mound.�? â�?�?We wanted to conserve some of our pitching, just in case we won.�? I thought he did a phenomenal job.â�? Johnson, who his coach said â�?�?finds a way to get kids out,â�? struck out four and walked only one.�? He survived one painful stretch spread over the second and third innings when seven out of nine successive Dakota Valley batters worked Johnson for three doubles and four singles.�? The Panthers did score four times in the second to take a 4-2 lead, but in the third, with two men on and nobody out, Johnson gutted it out and retired three men in a row â�?�? two on infield grounders and one by strikeout â�?�? to end the Dakota Valley threat.�? The Panthers, though they had two baserunners in each of the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, didn't score again until there were two outs in the seventh.�? With the potential tying runs at the corners, Johnson coaxed a ground ball to third-baseman J.R. Moore, who made the play to first to end the game and send the Tanagers on to the region finals. Vermillion jumped on the first of three Dakota Valley pitchers, Mark Mahnke, for two runs in the first on Kyle Nemecâ�?�?s home run.�? The Tanagers answered the Panthersâ�?�? four-run second with two of their own to tie the game on a single by Andrew Eidem, a double by Mike Szymonski and a single by Jerrod Freidel. Each team scored once in the third, the Tanagersâ�?�? run coming without the aid of a hit.�? Reid Meierkort started the inning with a walk, stole second, advanced to third on a catcherâ�?�?s throwing error and scored on a balk. So it was 5-5 into the fourth. Facing Panther reliever Michael Broll, Szymonski started the winning rally with a walk. Freidel then laid down a picture-perfect bunt to the right side and beat the play for a basehit.�? Sam McBride got the signal to sacrifice, and he came through a similarly exquisite bunt that advanced the two runners.�? â�?�?Those bunters really sparked us,â�? Gault observed.�? â�?�?Itâ�?�?s critical for our one and two hitters to set the table for our three and four hitters, and thatâ�?�?s the way that inning worked out.â�?�? With two men in scoring position, Jason Rasmussen stroked a signal, then Meierkort belted a double, giving Vermillion its 8-5 lead. The Tanagers had only eight hits off starter Mahnke and relievers Broll and Josh Vanderhul, but their hits were timely ones.�? Meierkort and Freidel had two apiece while Rasmussen, Nemec, Eidem and Syzmonski each had one of the other four. Earlier in the week Vermillion had defeated Bon Homme, 7-1, and Dakota Valley had ousted Beresford, 8-3, in the Eastern Division first round.