Tanagers finish season with 14-2 record By Parker Knox
Sportswriter The Vermillion High School baseball season ended one win short of the Tanagers' state "B" tournament destination Tuesday night when Stickney/Mount Vernon/Hanson/Ethan came to Prentis Park and captured the Region 1B championship, 5-1. The Tanagers finish an outstanding season with a 14-2 record. The only other loss was an 8-7 defeat at the hands of Yankton early in April. The team then reeled off 12 straight wins until Tuesday. Tyson Gau, SMVHE's starter and South Dakota's Class "B" Mr. Basketball for 2008-09, showed he isn't bad on the baseball diamond either. Though the Tanagers had base runners off him in each of the first four innings, they managed only one run. Once Gau was handed a 5-1 lead after 3 1/2 innings, he appeared even stronger. He faced the minimum of nine batters in the last three innings he pitched, striking out six of them, including five in a row at one stretch. Gau gave way to reliever Ryan Stahl, who walked two Tanagers in their last at-bat but got the side out with no damage done, preserving the Knights' regional title. Vermillion put its leadoff man on base in the first and second innings but couldn't score off Gau. In both innings he struck out the last two batters to strand a Tanager in each frame. The Tanagers scored once in the third when Sam McBride walked and Jason Rasmussen doubled him home. But before and after that occurrence, they ran themselves out of a chance for more runs. Grant Lueders, who led off the inning with a single, was out trying to stretch it into a double. At the end of the inning Kyle Nemec's sharp line drive was speared by SMVHE's third-baseman, Pierce Smith, who doubled a runner off second base. Vermillion never came close to scoring after that. The only baserunner off Tanager starter JR Moore in the first two innings reached on an error but was stranded. In the third, however, Stahl led off with a double, and Cole Wenande followed with a single and Zach London walked. The first Knight run scored when Moore hit a batter. The next scored on a bases-loaded walk. Moore got out of that jam with an infield pop-up and a called third strike. So it was 2-1 when SMVHE came to bat in the fourth, and the Knights promptly put the game out of reach. A walk, a single, an infield force play that scored a run, a walk and two singles made it 5-1. Kyle Nemec was brought over from first base to relieve Moore. He promptly coaxed an infield pop-up to end the three-run fourth. He retired SMVHE in order in the fifth and sixth, striking out four of the six batters he faced. He struck out another in the seventh when the Knights had two baserunners but didn't score. Nemec picked a runner at third base off the bag, and he was chased down in a rundown between third and home to end that threat. But by that time SMVHE had all the runs it needed, and reliever Stahl closed the door on the game and the Tanagers' season. Given the 5-1 lead, Gau became next to impossible to hit. The Tanagers finished with only four hits — Rasmussen's RBI double, Lueders' leadoff single in the third, Cory Taggart's leadoff double in the second, and a single by Moore in the fourth that was erased in a double play. It was a off-kilter night right from the outset. The game started nearly an hour late because somebody in the high school baseball association hadn't notified the umpiring crew. The crowd and the teams had to wait while they drove over from Yankton. Coach Jason Gault missed the game, too, when his wife went into premature labor while in Sioux Falls for a doctor's appointment. VHS 9, Beresford 3 Giving the Tanagers opportunities is a bad idea as many opponents have learned this season. Beresford is the latest. Vermillion made the Watchdogs pay dearly for every mistake Friday night as VHS moved into the regional title game with a 9-3 win in the second round. The Tanagers completed a clean sweep of teams in the region's Eastern Division, going 10-0 against Beresford, Dakota Valley and Bon Homme, and they improved their season's record to 14-1 with their 12th straight victory. Tyler Johnson scattered seven hits in throwing six innings to get the win. He struck out three and walked two. He got the Watchdogs to send seven flies to the outfield and three pop-ups over the infield where Johnson's defense made the plays, not easy to do on a night of swirling winds. Grant Lueders moved over from first base to relieve Johnson in the seventh stanza and mowed down the Watchdogs in order on a strikeout, an outfield fly and an infield pop-up to end the game. Beresford roughed up Johnson to start the game when two doubles, a single and a sacrifice fly produced a pair of tallies. Further damage was prevented when Jason Rasmussen ended the uprising with a perfect strike to first base from deep in the hole at shortstop. Another sparkling defensive play came from left-fielder JR Moore. Though he couldn't handle a dying fly ball to start the second inning, he recovered quickly and fired to second-baseman Sam McBride to nail the batter trying to gain an extra base. Johnson himself made a crucial defensive play as well. With Beresford runners on second and first and only one out in the fourth, he fielded a ball in front of the mound and fired a bullet to third base for a force-out on an extremely close play. The next Watchdog batter got an infield hit, but instead of scoring a run, it merely loaded the bases. Johnson left them loaded when he coaxed a pop to short to end the frame. Down 2-0 in the first, the Tanagers got one run back with Beresford's help. Leadoff man McBride got the first of his three hits, stole second and scored when the next batter, Jason Rasmussen, hit an easy grounder to third base. The ball, however, was thrown high and far over the first-baseman's head. With one out in the bottom of the second, Lueders' clean single and McBride's infield hit off an infielder's glove set the stage for a five-run Tanager inning. Rasmussen hit into what appeared to be a forceout at second base until the ball was dropped there, loading the bases. Andrew Eidem and Kyle Nemec then drove in runs with bases-loaded walks to put VHS ahead by 3-2. Taggart hit into a force play but drove in another run in the process. Then with two out, Moore stroked the game's key hit, a two-run double to make it 6-2. Beresford reliever Eric Docken wiggled out of a couple sticky situations until the Tanagers got breathing room on a two-run single from Rasmussen. They scored once more in the sixth when Moore singled, was moved up and scored on a wild pitch. Besides McBride's three hits, Nemec, Moore and Lueders had two each and Rasmussen and Brian Hansen one each.