13-14 Teeners become champs with stunning win By Parker Knox
Sportswriter On the third night of their regional tournament two weeks ago, the Vermillion 13-14 Teeners could neither hit, throw nor catch the baseball with any regularity in a bad loss to Dakota Valley. Who would have thought the same team would not lose again and 11 days later be celebrating a state championship! The Teeners, coached by Jason Huska, Aaron Brown and Bill Settles, got hot the next night at the regional in a win over Lennox, beat Dakota Valley twice on championship night, and this past weekend completed their unlikely journey. A stunning 12-1 triumph over Parkston in the state tournament title game at Elk Point Sunday night, following wins over Madison and Tea, gave the city of Vermillion its second state baseball championship in the same day, just five hours after the Post 1 club had won the state "B" Legion crown. Pitcher Jake Hogen's two-hitter climaxed a great tournament individually. Over 10 innings of mound work he struck out 10 of the 44 batters he faced, and opponents batted only .135 against him. Mitch Brown threw seven innings, and his opponents batted only .130 against him. The fact that Hogen was available, if needed, for all seven innings of the final game was made possibly by an inning thrown earlier by Collin Bertram. The trio of Vermillion pitchers stifled three opponents' batters to a .141 average at the plate against them. Bertram led the team in RBIs during the weekend in Elk Point with six, followed by Tanner Anderson's five, all in the final game, and Tanner Settles' and Hogen's four apiece. The team batted at a .324 clip, led by Settles at .571, Hogen at .556 and Anderson at .500.?Settles had the best on-base percentage of .700 with Hogen and Mitch Brown at .600. The team's average was .468. In slugging percentages Anderson with a homer and two doubles had a whopping .917. Settles was next at .714, and Chayse Meierkort, Jayce Huska and Hogen were at .667. Meierkort and Anderson led in runs scored with five each. Layne Brown, Mitch Brown, Hogen and Colin Olson scored four times each. The Teeners finished their glorious season with a record of 25-8. Game 1: Madison When stifling pitching and timely hitting come together for a team, baseball can be a beautiful game for that team. It was downright gorgeous for Vermillion in the first-round 13-2 win over Madison. While his offense was scoring four runs in each of the first three innings, pitcher Jake Hogen was mastering Madison batters. He struck out six and gave up only four hits, but, most important of all, at a level of baseball when walks are often too numerous to count, Hogen walked only one. A Layne Brown triple started Vermillion's first-inning outburst. Hogen singled him home and later scored on a shortstop's error during a double steal. A Tanner Settles double and a Collin Bertram single scored subsequent runs. Layne Brown's sacrifice fly scored Tanner Anderson in the second. Chayse Meierkort plunged the dagger into Madison's heart with a two-run home run. Another Bertram single scored a later run in the inning. Vermillion's four spot in the third saw three runs score on Madison errors, and a Bertram hit drove in a run for the third straight inning. Colin Olson walked in the fourth, reached third on wild pitches and scored on an attempt to nail a stealing runner at second base. When Madison scored only once in the fifth but still trailed by 11, the 10-run rule kicked in, and the game ended at that point. Of Vermillion's 11 hits, Hogen and Bertram had three apiece, Meierkort and Anderson two apiece, and Mitch Brown the other. Besides Bertram's three RBIs, Meierkort and Hogen drove in three and Settles and Layne Brown one each. Game 2: Tea When you have only two hits in a game, it's best to use them judiciously, and that's what Vermillion did in a tight 6-4 win over Tea in the semifinals Saturday night. In a game filled with many more walks and hit batsmen than hits and runs, Vermillion did what it had to do, making key defensive plays, especially in the infield where bobbles and miscues can happen easily. The winners took a 1-0 lead in the second when, after the bases were loaded on three walks, Colin Olson drew a fourth to force in the run. Tea tied the game in the third on a double by Andrew Becker, but catcher Chayse Meierkort prevented further damage when he nailed Becker trying to steal third for the final out. Third-baseman Tanner Anderson applied the tag. Vermillion's first of two two-run innings came in the third. Meierkort was hit with a pitch and Mitch Brown walked. Both men scored on the team's first hit, a double to deep center by Tanner Settles. But Tea went back up 4-3 on back-to-back singles scoring three in the top of the fourth. The decisive bottom of the fifth started with two hit batters sandwiched around a walk to load the bases. Mitch Brown was drilled by a pitch to force in the tying run. Tea pulled off a third-to-home-to-first double play, leaving two men aboard for Bertram. He delivered Vermillion's second hit of the game, a two-run double to right. Now leading 6-4, Vermillion's trick was holding the lead. The left-side infielders came through, shortstop Settles fielding a pair of ground balls and getting forces at second base and third-baseman Anderson scooping up a grounder to throw out the final batter. The seventh started with a hit batter, but Vermillion hurler Mitch Brown struck out the next batter, got the next to hit into a force play and ended the game on a fly to right field. Mitch Brown struck out four, walked six and hit four batters during his seven innings on the mound and allowed only three hits. Game 3: Parkston Tanner Anderson's leadoff double to deep left field set the tone for the championship game, and Vermillion was off and running in a 12-run, 11-hit attack. At the same time their pitcher, Jake Hogen, would limit Parkston to two measly hits — a second-inning single and a third-inning double. Hogen's sacrifice fly scored Anderson in the top of the first. In the third it became 3-0 when Colin Olson walked and Anderson slugged an inside-the-park home run to deep center field. Parkston scored its lone run on a hit batter, a walk and a double in the third to creep to within 3-1, but Vermillion answered with a three-run fourth to go up by 6-1. Jayce Huska's double scored one, and Anderson single to score two more. Parkston's best chance to get back into the game was foiled by Hogen in the fifth. A hit batter and two walks loaded the bases with two out, but Hogen himself snatched a line drive out of the air to end the inning. Vermillion went crazy in a six-run sixth, starting with an Anderson double to score a run, giving him five RBIs for the night. He scored on a passed ball, Hogen doubled in a run, and he scored on an error. Later in the inning Collin Bertram likewise blasted a two-run double. Parkston had to score immediately to prevent the game's ending via the 10-run rule, but they could not. Hogen got them in order on a pop-up to shortstop and two flies to right field. For one day at least, Vermillion had become the baseball capital of South Dakota. In addition to Anderson's four hits, Vermillion's other seven included two by Tanner Settles and Hogen and one each from Bertram, Huska and Mitch Brown. Hogen's two-hitter included four strikeouts, four walks and two hit batters. An unfortunate incident occurred midway through the game. In a rough collision during a bang-bang play at home plate, the umpire saw something which in his eyes demanded the ejection of catcher Meierkort. Considering that Meierkort had had a terrific tournament up to that point, especially on the defensive side, that might have been a turning point against Vermillion. However, the rest of the team rallied around the misfortune. This was especially true of Jayce Huska, the team's replacement catcher, who was brought in from his usual infield position to catch the rest of the game and did so more than adequately. Other members of the state champs not mentioned earlier in this story are Brock Allen, Seth Miller, Ethan James, Trevor Grey, Seth Heine and Jay Munger.