Tanagers rally to victory in postseason play By Parker Knox
Sportswriter The Vermillion Tanagers took one giant step toward the Region 1B baseball championship Sunday, rallying from an early 2-0 deficit to eliminate Dakota Valley, 12-2, in five innings at Prentis Park, in the first round of postseason play. In securing their 13th win in 14 games, the Tanagers moved into the Eastern Division title game against Beresford to be played at 7 p.m. tonight (Friday) at Prentis Park. The winner then meets the Western Division survivor for the regional championship in a game to be played within the next few days. If Vermillion is involved, that contest will also be at Prentis Park. (Game time and date, once they are determined, can be accessed at www.sdhighschoolbaseball.org.) The regional champ goes to Freeman for the state "B" semifinals on Memorial Day afternoon and hopefully the state championship game that night. Vermillion has beaten Beresford three times this spring — 12-2 in five innings and 13-7 at home and 4-1 in Beresford. The Watchdogs qualified for tonight's game by ousting Bon Homme, 3-0, in a first-round game Sunday. It wouldn't be accurate to say panic was beginning to set in at Prentis Park Sunday night when the Tanagers trailed for 3 1/2 innings, but let's say it was a nervous time. The high-scoring VHS club, which has scored in double figures in 11 of its 13 victories, to that point had managed only one run and three hits off Dakota Valley starter Shawn Hoffman, but still they had stranded six men on base in their first three at-bats. Perhaps it just was a matter of time before the Vermillion bats would resume their customary booming. The Tanagers had spotted the Panthers a pair of unearned first-inning runs on an infield throwing error, a double by Brock DeVries and a single by Nick Spilger. VHS got one of them back in the second. Hoffman fired a ball wildly to first base, allowing leadoff batter Tyler Johnson to reach third. He immediately scored on JR Moore's infield ground ball. Tanager starter Kyle Nemec, coming off a six-inning shutout in his previous outing, kept his cool through the two unearned runs in the first inning and three other Panther baserunners in the second and third. In the fourth the first batter he faced was retired by a sterling sliding catch by left-fielder Johnson. Then Nemec struck out the next two batters to retire the side in order and set the stage for a Tanager explosion. Moore got it started with a leadoff single in the bottom of the fourth, and Lueders worked Hoffman for a walk. Sam McBride combined his leadoff-man speed with a little bit of luck when his bunt popped into the air halfway toward third base. Hoffman stumbled down off the mound and couldn't field the ball, so McBride had a basehit instead of a sacrifice out, and the Tanagers were in business with the sacks juiced. Jason Rasmussen, who already had one hit in the game, stroked one of his most important hits of the season, a two-run single that put VHS ahead to stay, 3-2. Andrew Eidem, sacrificing his potential power to bunt his teammates ahead, used his own speed to reach first base safely. Again the bases were loaded, still with nobody out, and Nemec did what a clean-up hitter is supposed to do. He smacked a sharp single that scored two more runs. After Cory Taggart walked, Brian Hansen lofted a sacrifice fly to complete a five-run stanza that lifted VHS out of danger, 6-2. In the top of the fifth, the Tanagers had a bit of misfortune go their way when the base umpire had his back turned when the infielders picked off an advancing Panther run at second base. But shaking that off, the infield did its job on the next play when Spilger hit into a niftily-turned double play, McBride to Rasmussen to Lueders, to end the inning. VHS, leading by only four, wasn't thinking of ending the game in the bottom of the fifth, needing six runs to reach the 10-run rule requirement. But that's what happened. With Hoffman relieved on the mound by Elliot Bacon, the adrenaline carried over from the five-run fourth was still flowing. Lueders and McBride led off with a single and a double, respectively, and Rasmussen made it a four-RBI day for himself with a two-run triple that curved away from the right-fielder down into the corner. Bacon completely collapsed from that point on, walking the next two men, throwing a pair of wild pitches that scored runs and allowing a hit to Taggart. With the score 10-2, Bacon was about to get out of further trouble when Johnson hit an easy come-backer to the pitcher with two out. But Bacon threw it past the first-baseman, and the two runs that VHS needed to reach a 10-run lead merrily danced across the plate. Besides Rasmussen's three hits, McBride, Nemec and Lueders ended up with two apiece. Meanwhile Nemec restricted the Panthers to seven hits, fanned five and did not issue a single walk. In previously unreported games, the Tanagers whipped Bon Homme, 13-6, and whitewashed Freeman/Menno, 10-0. Nick Anglin was starter and winner against Bon Homme, throwing 2 2/3 innings and allowing three earned runs. Grant Lueders worked 3 1/3 innings and Brian Hansen one frame, neither allowing an earned run. Cory Taggart had a 3-for-4 day with four runs batted in. Kyle Nemec went 2-for-4 with two RBIs. A seven-run fourth put the Tanagers ahead safely. At Menno, Nemec pitched six innings of shutout baseball, striking out seven, walking two and giving up only three hits. He was backed up athte plate by two-hit games from Andrew Eidem, Taggart, Tyler Johnson, Moore and Lueders. Johnson drove home four runs while Moore had two RBIs. The Tanagers scored in every inning, slowly building a lead until reaching the 10-run margin with four in the sixth.