The only thing better than winning the state championship in Class "B" American Legion baseball – and that's what Vermillion Post 1 did last summer – would be to win it again.
That will be the long-range goal for the Post 1 ballclub, which returns a plethora of veterans and welcomes a group of newcomers as well for the season openers on the road next week.
Last season Coach Jason Gault's Legion varsity was 0-3 after its first three games against Sioux Falls opposition, but then began to roll. They won 21, lost only four and tied one the rest of the way during the regular season. In the Region 3B tournament they were 1-1 after two games and faced elimination each time they played, but Vermillion came through at crunch time, ousting Elk Point and Lennox, then beating Harrisburg twice on championship day to bring home the regional title and move to the state tournament at Platte.
There Post 1 had five glorious days, beating Big Stone City, Groton, Platte-Geddes, Chamberlain and Groton again to capture the state "B" title. They earned the right to play among the big boys in the American Legion state championship tournament where they lost twice to finish the summer at 31-10-1.
Post 1 will be without only two men from that championship roster because of Legion baseball's age limitations. The birthdays of ace pitcher Tyler Johnson, who was the state tournament's MVP, and rock-solid catcher Andrew Eidem, occur just a matter of weeks prior to the deadline for Legion ballplayers for the 2010 season.
Also missing from this summer's roster will be starting second-baseman Sam McBride, who is age-eligible but who has chosen to accept a summer employment opportunity out of state between his freshman and sophomore years of college.
"A solid group of experienced players and the addition of our newcomers will provide Post 1 with excellent depth at almost every position this year," Gault said. "Our success this season will again depend on consistent pitching and defense."
Anyone who is expecting Post 1 to steamroll this year's opposition with few challenges, however, probably needs to be reminded that everyone will now give Vermillion its best shot.
"As much as we would like to repeat our successful 2009 season, the players know that they need to stay grounded and continue to improve their game in order to compete in a very tough region," Gault added. "I am confident that, if we continue to work hard throughout the season, Post 1 will be a contender for the region title and a possible trip to state at Lennox."
Gault said he is especially anxious to see how his team competes against some of the best teams in the area. Post 1's schedule will include trips out to the Winner tournament again and to the Omaha area for three games at College World Series time against metropolitan area opponents. Mitchell has been added to the schedule as well.
One of the highlights again will come early in June when Vermillion, Yankton and Hartington host the first two days of the Lewis and Clark Classic. Coming to Prentis Park for that event will be Groton, Sturgis, and Nebraska teams from O'Neill and Blair. The final day will be played at Yankton.
Post 1's season begins next week with out-of-town trips on three consecutive nights. It starts at Canton with a 6 p.m. single game Tuesday, continues with a twinbill at Sioux Falls West at 5 and 7 p.m. Wednesday, and concludes with a 7 p.m. game against Bon Homme at Tabor on Thursday.
The home opener will be against Lennox at 7 p.m. Sunday, May 30, as the concluding game of the day-long Opening Day Celebration of Vermillion baseball.
Returning to Post 1's lineup from the 2009 championship team are pitcher/outfielder Cory Taggart, outfielder Mike Szymonski, shortstop Jason Rasmussen, pitcher/first baseman Kyle Nemec, pitcher/third baseman J.R. Moore, pitcher/first baseman Grant Lueders, outfielder Denny Kainrath, pitcher/infielder Brian Hansen, catcher Ryun Fischbach and pitcher/infielder Nick Anglin.
Joining the ranks will be second baseman/outfielder D'Andre Fore, catcher/pitcher Tyler Husby, catcher/first baseman Scott Iverson, second baseman Wes McBride, first baseman Zach McDonald, infielder/outfielder Stormy Mirtz and pitcher Bobby Osterberg.
Gault will be assisted in coaching Post 1 baseball by long-time assistant coach Nick Mayer.