Tanagers need three straight wins By Parker Knox
Sportswriter Vermillion High School's baseball team enters postseason play this weekend with a strong tailwind of momentum behind them. The ultimate destination? The state Class "B" semifinals in Freeman on Memorial Day afternoon. To get from here to there, the Tanagers need three straight wins. All of those games would be played at Prentis Park because VHS has earned the top seed in Region 1B, thanks to a 12-1 regular season and a 6-0 record in league play against Region 1B Eastern Division opponents. Vermillion's first foe will be Dakota Valley, the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Division, a club the Tanagers have defeated three times by 14-8, 11-0 and 10-0 scores. That winner will then face the survivor between Beresford and Bon Homme for the right to take on the Western Division champion — Freeman/Menno, Parkston, Wagner/Avon or Stickney/Mt. Vernon/Hanson/Ethan — for the right to advance to the state semifinals and finals on May 25. VHS 10, Dakota Valley 0 The Tanagers polished off the regular season with a home-field 10-0 five-inning shutout over the Panthers amid rain showers Monday night. When Tyler Johnson is in his groove, he is one tough hombre with whom to deal, and Dakota Valley faced him at his best. Johnson faced only 16 batters, one more than the absolute minimum, in five innings. He struck out six (at least one in each inning), forced seven batters into infield grounders, and retired two others on outfield flies. The only hit off Johnson came on a sharply hit ground ball off Taylor White's bat in the fourth. Second-baseman Sam McBride had to go to his right into the outfield. There he made a great backhand stop of the ball, but then he slid on the wet grass. There was no time for him to recover, pivot and fire to first. There probably should have been another hit off Johnson, but right-fielder Earl Kiertzner made the outfield play of the season so far on a fly ball from DV's Eliot Bacon in the second inning. Kiertzner, a top-notch wrestler and the VHS football quarterback in other seasons, dived to his left and stretched out every inch of his 5'7" frame to snag the ball as it curved away from him. While Johnson and his defense were doing the job on the field, the Tanager bats were giving him support, especially in a seven-run, five-hit, 11-batter second inning. Cory Taggart's single and Brian Hansen's sacrifice bunt ignited the cloudburst. JR Moore's single scored the first run, and Grant Lueders' double plated another. After Kiertzner walked, Sam McBride singled home a third run. Jason Rasmussen's grounder was thrown away at second base by the pitcher Bacon to load the sacks. Andrew Eidem waited out a walk to drive in a fourth run. Kyle Nemec put the game out of reach early with a smashing three-run double. In the fourth VHS scored twice more. Rasmussen tripled, Eidem singled him home, and Nemec brought in Eidem on a rocket-shot double that hit the fence in the deepest part of center field on the fly. It was Nemec's fourth RBI. Needing one run to end the game via the 10-run rule in the fifth, Kiertzner was hit by a pitch, stole second, went to third on a passed ball and scored on Rasmussen's game-ending single, his third hit of the night. The Tanager JVs sustained a 16-6 loss to Dakota Valley despite a four-run first that featured an over-the-fence two-run home run struck by Zach McDonald following Tyler Husby's double. Earlier in the week the varsity Tanagers trimmed Bon Homme, 13-6; edged Beresford, 4-1, and shut out Freeman/Menno, 10-0. To find out when the Tanagers' playoff opener will be played, fans can go to the school website (www.vermillion.k12.sd.us), then click on "Athletics" and "Baseball" for information once the game is scheduled.