About 10 p.m. Tuesday night at the Canton ballpark, things couldn't have been going any better for Vermillion's 13-14 VFW Teeners.
They were cruising over Lennox with an 8-2 lead heading into the sixth inning, needing only six outs to secure a victory and take control of the Region 1A tournament. A win would mean they would then be only one more win away from a state tournament berth.
Unfortunately they had to play the sixth and seventh innings. Lennox scored five gift-wrapped runs in the sixth and six more in the seventh to win 13-8 and send Vermillion into the losers' bracket.
Vermillion was at that point faced with the daunting prospect of winning three straight elimination games (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights) to get the state tourney berth and two more Saturday to win the regional title.
Region Game 1
Vermillion made plays and Elk Point-Jefferson didn't Monday night in the first round of the regional. The result was a predictable 16-1 Vermillion victory that ended via the 15-run rule after the fourth inning.
Brett Bye, starting on the mound, gave up only one unearned run in his 2 2/3 innings on the hill, talking five, allowing three hits and striking out one. Jacob Odens pitched the final 1 1/3 innings and put the clamps down on EP-J, walking the first man he faced but then striking out three of the next four to end the game.
A two-run first inning got Vermillion off and running. Doubles by Jay Munger and Jayce Huska produced the initial tally, and a balk let in the second run.
Brett Korn and Huska had RBI singles and Brett Bye a sacrifice fly in a three-run second.
A seven-run third started with two walks and a costly EP-J infield error. After that Seth Miller had an RBI single, Huska an RBI double, another run scored on a wild pitch, and three runs crossed the plate due to EP-J errors.
Vermillion got the four runs it needed to reach the 15-run lead in the fourth. Munger had a two-run single, and Huska had his fourth hit in four innings and drove in his fourth run. A wild pitch let the run score that made the final margin 16-1.
Region Game 2
If a team scores eight runs while holding the other team to four hits, a victory seems highly probable, but such was not the case Tuesday night.
Lennox managed only four hits off Vermillion pitching – one in the first inning, one in the second and two in the seventh – while Vermillion had nine hits of its own. But Lennox was the benefactor of 17 walks and four errors.
Trailing 2-0 after 1 1/2 innings, Vermillion scored once in the second on Seth Miller's hit. In the third they took the lead on Seth Heine's two-run single.
Vermillion scored three more times in the fourth on Jay Munger's bunt for a basehit, an infield hit from Brett Bye, a bases-loaded hit batter, and Regan Bye's two-run double.
The lead grew to 8-2 in the fifth when Ethan James was hit with a pitch and Miller laid down a perfect bunt. The first baseman couldn't handle the throw to nab Miller, the ball rolled into the bullpen corner, and James scored while Miller went to third. He then scored on a Munger hit.
Brett Korn had started on the mount and went four innings, allowing only two hits and stranding five Lennox runners. Ryan Schuster relieved for the fifth and stranded the bases loaded. But disaster struck shortly thereafter.
A hit batter, an infield error and two walks and even a steal of home brought Lennox to within 8-5. Jacob Odens relieved on the mound. Three walks and a hit batter later and Lennox had scored five times without a single hit to creep to within 8-7.
Lennox reliever Jordan Harrington, inspired by his team's rally, mowed down Vermillion on three strikeouts in the bottom of the sixth, and momentum had switched sides.
After a single and two walks, Harrington himself gave Lennox the lead with a two-run double. Then came another costly error and another walk, and Lennox was in command by five.
Despite scoring 13 times, Lennox left 11 more runners on base while Vermillion stranded nine. Munger had three hits and was on base all five times he batted, and Brett Bye had two hits for Vermillion.
The Teeners, who lost only twice during the summer, once to the Lennox 14s and once to Canton, concluded the regular season with an 11-1 win over the Lennox 13s at Prentis Park last Thursday.
Lennox pitchers' inability to locate the strike zone and several misplays by their defense combined with timely hits by Vermillion to allow the home team to pull away early, starting with a five-run first inning. Seth Heine had a run-scoring single and Jacob Odens a two-run double during the attack.
Odens drove in another run on an infield ground-out and Seth Miller had an RBI double in a three-run second. Jay Munger drove in a run with a third-inning single. Miller's sacrifice fly in the fourth plated another run. An infield grounder off Regan Bye's bat gave Vermillion a 10-run margin that ended the game abruptly in the fifth.
Ryan Schuster was the starter on the mound for Vermillion, striking out two and walking four while allowing two hits in two innings. Brett Korn pitched three shutout innings in relief, fanning five and giving up only one hit.
The "B" game was even more one-sided as Vermillion sent 21 batters to the plate in a 15-run first inning that featured nine walks by two Lennox pitchers along with nine hits. Heine drove in three runs in the inning on a single and a double. Munger stroked a two-run single. Bye had two singles, each scoring a run. Jacob Krier also had an RBI single. Several other players got credit for RBIs when they drew bases-loaded walks.
By mutual agreement the game ended after Lennox was retired without a run or a hit in the top of the second.