Brandon Valley sidelines
Red Sox in postseason play By Parker Knox
Sportswriter The Brandon Valley Merchants' pitching staff came up with two of their best performances of the season at the right time last week. Unfortunately for the Vermillion Red Sox, it was they who were the opponents both times. As a result of a pair of losses to the Merchants, the Red Sox will be viewing the state amateur tournament this year in the unfamiliar role of spectators. Meanwhile, Brandon Valley and the Yankton Tappers will be the two representatives of the Class "A" Southeast Region when "A" teams begin play this weekend in Brookings, then head to Mitchell for the tourney's conclusion the following weekend. Manager Kirk Sorensen's Red Sox opened postseason play at Yankton last Tuesday with an 8-1 loss to Brandon Valley, a team they had eliminated last season in postseason play. This time Bryce Ahrendt took to the mound for the Merchants and produced a two-hitter. The Red Sox were shut out by Ahrendt until they scored a run in the bottom of the ninth. Casey Neumann pitched six innings for Vermillion and took the loss. On Saturday the Red Sox stayed alive by ousting the Mitchell Mad Dogs, 9-1, behind Jared Heidesch's six-hit complete game. He struck out nine and enjoyed comfortable support from his offensive teammates. Jim McNaughton had three hits and three RBIs, including a two-run homer in the seventh that increased Vermillion's lead to 9-1. Robin Chute had two hits and two RBIs while Dan Hansen also hit safely twice. Chute drove home the game's initial tally with a first-inning single. Three unearned gift runs in the second gave them a comfort zone of 4-0. Chute came through with another clutch RBI hit in the fourth. The lead grew to 7-0 in the sixth on RBI hits by Hansen and Colby Lessmann. The victory over Mitchell lifted the Red Sox into a do-or-die state tourney qualification game Saturday evening against Brandon Valley. This was a classic postseason game that stayed 1-1 until a fateful top of the ninth. Brandon Valley had secured its lone run to that point on a bases-loaded walk in the third. They had a golden chance to break it open right there, but Red Sox hurler Garrett Linhardt escaped a bases-loaded, none-out situation without further scoring. The Sox tied the game in the fourth when Chute singled, swiped second base and danced home on Cody Davis' single. The Merchants' Nick Bruning warmed up as the game wore on, at one stretch striking out six straight Sox batters and retiring 12 in a row. Finally in the ninth Brandon Valley started a four-run game-winning burst on a Sox error. A single and a double steal gave them a 2-1 lead. After two walks loaded the bases, three runs came in a hurry. A single to the outfield scored one run. When the ball was bobbled and then thrown wildly back to the infield, two more runners scored. Vermillion gave it one last shot in its half of the ninth, loading the bases with nobody out and needing four runs to tie. But Bruning weasled out of trouble with a pair of strikeouts — he finished with 13 Ks — and an infield grounder to end the Red Sox season and send the Merchants to the state tourney. Chute had two of the five Sox hits with Davis, Justin Beebe and Brad Donovan each posting one hit. Linhardt struck out seven and walked six in his 8 1/3 innings, and Ken Longman came in during the ninth to get the final two Merchant batters. At least two of the Red Sox players will see some postseason action. Chute and Heidesch have been picked up by the Yankton Tappers to join them in Brookings when "A" teams begin state tourney action Friday.