13-14 Teeners earn berth at state tournament By Parker Knox
Sportswriter Surviving a drama-packed extra-inning 4-3 elimination game, Vermillion's 13-14 Teeners blew out Dakota Valley, 14-1, in a second championship-night contest at Beresford Friday to capture the Region 1A title and a spot in this weekend's state tournament at Elk Point. The team coached by Jason Huska, Aaron Brown and Bill Settles, opens play at 2:30 p.m. Friday against Madison. Other first-round pairings are Tea vs. Winner at noon, Parkston vs. Hartford/Humboldt at 5:30 p.m. and Groton vs. Elk Point-Jefferson at 8 p.m. All eight teams will participate in an opening ceremony at 5:20 p.m. Vermillion will play Saturday either at noon in a losers' bracket game vs. Tea or Winner or in a semifinal at 5:30 p.m. against one of those clubs. Sunday's schedule has a fifth-place game at noon, a third-place contest at 3 p.m., and the state title game at 6 p.m.Fans can follow inning-by-inning scores at http://www.epj.k12.sd.us/Whatsnew/2008-09/Index.htm. Championship Night In young Teener ball, one of the keys is putting the ball in play and forcing the opponent to make the plays. Errors figured prominently in five of the seven runs scored in Friday night's first game, including Vermillion's tying and winning runs in the bottom of the ninth. Trailing 3-2 in what was for them an elimination game, Vermillion got it going when catcher Chayse Meierkort, with the taunts of "Joe Mauer!" from the Dakota Valley bench ringing in his ears, answered with his bat, lining a no-doubt single into left field. On a ball that Mitch Brown put into play, the Panther pitcher threw it away at first base, sending Meierkort to third and Brown to second. Suddenly Vermillion was in a position to not only tie the game but win it. The tie came quickly when a wild pitch scooted past the DV catcher, scoring Meierkort. A ground ball from Colin Bertram was handled by the first baseman, but Brown advanced to third. Tanner Settles lofted a fly ball to left field. Brown started from third to home at the crack of the bat, but when it appeared the ball was going to be caught, he had to retreat to tag third base. Then he still darted for home plate. The throw relayed from left to third to home got there in time, but when Brown made contact with the catcher as he slid in, the ball popped loose. Brown scored, and Vermillion had the win it had to have to force another game. Each club had scored once in the first. Tanner Anderson led off with a single, advanced on Jake Hogen's double and scored on a bases-loaded walk to Mitch Brown. Brown, doing Vermillion's pitching, got out of a bases-loaded situation in the fourth when a grounder to second-baseman Jayce Huska was handled for the final out. Dakota Valley got a go-ahead run in the fifth on a walk and a double, but Vermillion tied it again in the sixth with a rally after two were out. Settles walked and advanced to second when Colin Olson was hit with a pitch. Coach Jason Huska directed Settles to try to steal third, and the strategy worked perfectly because the DV catcher, trying to nail Settles, fired the ball into left field, allowing Settles to tie the contest at 2-2. The game scheduled for seven innings had high seventh-inning drama. Dakota Valley got the lead runner to third and the bases loaded with two out, but Jake Hogen was brought in in relief from his left-field spot to pitch. He saved the game by getting a called third strike on the DV batter. Vermillion got the winning run as far as second in the bottom of the seventh and had the bases loaded in the eighth but couldn't end the game in either situation. In the top of the ninth, DV went ahead when an inning-ending ground ball in in the infield was mishandled at first base, but that just made the game-winning heroics in the bottom of the inning even more exciting. Dakota Valley had only two hits through nine innings. Mitch Brown struck out four and walked nine in his 6 2/3 innings of work. Hogen pitched two innings, and Bertram came in in the ninth to get the final out. Vermillion had six hits, one each for Anderson, Hogen, Meierkort, Mitch Brown, Huska and Settles. Momentum stayed with Vermillion, even after a 20-minute break between games. The Red and White, now the visiting team, put together a four-run first inning. A wild pitch and a balk each scored a run as did a sacrifice fly by Mitch Brown and a single by Settles. Four consecutive walks off starter Hogen produced DV's only run of the game in the second. Bertram moved in to relieve and ended the serious threat with a line drive to shortstop Mitch Brown. DV threatened again in the third, but on a bases-loaded two-out bunt, catcher Meierkort sprang out of his crouch to get the ball, then dived to his left to tag out the oncoming runner from third base and leave three runners stranded. It was still only a 5-1 lead when Layne Brown became Vermillion's third pitcher starting in the bottom of the fifth. He earned his stripes, striking out four, giving up only one hit and one walk and retiring the last seven DV batters of the game. Meanwhile, his offense went crazy, and knowing their championship lights were dimming, DV did little to stop the merriment. Vermillion scored four in the sixth, including one on Hogen's RBI single, two on a ringing double from Meierkort and a fourth on Bertram's hit. The 9-1 lead became 14-1 in the seventh when things got out of hand. A leadoff hit by Jay Munger was followed by five walks and two errors. Bertram and Anderson each had two hits among Vermillion's eight. Meanwhile, DV had only four hits, giving them a total of only six off Vermillion pitching in 16 innings that evening. Earlier Games Vermillion opened regional play at Beresford with an 8-4 Sunday night victory over Canton July 12. Chayse Meierkort drove in three runs on a 4-for-4 night at the plate while Mitch Brown, Layne Brown and Tanner Anderson combined to pitch the win, allowing only three hits and fanning seven. Vermillion followed with a win over host Beresford Monday, 20-2, the game ended by the mercy rule after five innings. The winners had help, reaching base six times on fielding errors, 10 times on walks, and once on a hit batter. Vermillion made the most of its opportunities since the team had only six hits. Jake Hogen in four innings on the mound and Colin Bertram in one inning struckout four and gave up only four hits. The wheels came off the wagon, temporarily at least, on Wednesday when four unearned runs in the top of the first inning paved the way for a 14-10 Dakota Valley win, dealing Vermillion its first loss in the tournament. A total of seven DV batters reached base on errors in the game. Vermillion scored once in the second without the aid of a hit when Meierkort was hit with a pitch, advanced on an error and scored on a wild pitch, but the team still trailed 7-1 with three at-bats remaining. Vermillion finally found its hitting groove in those final three innings, but Dakota Valley couldn't be stopped at the same time as the winners put across seven runs in the last two stanzas. Mitch Brown had an RBI single in the fifth, and Anderson did the same in the sixth. Jayce Huska's single, one of his two hits, drove home one of three runs in the seventh, but the team fell four runs short. Vermillion picked itself up and scored a 3-2 win over Lennox that earned the spot in Friday's championship play. The run that proved to be the winner came in the third on back-to-back doubles by Meierkort and Mitch Brown. Anderson threw three innings, Huska one and Meierkort three. Vermillion cleaned up its act defensively, allowing only one Lennox batter to reach via an error, and he was erased in an uncommon double play. Taking a ground ball to his third-base position, Settles touched the bag for one out and fired to shortstop Mitch Brown covering second base for the twin killing. The winners came up with another double play in the fourth when center-fielder Hogen caught a fly and doubled off a runner at second.
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