Vermillion's pursuit of its second straight state Class "B" American Legion championship begins in earnest today (Friday) when the Post 1 warriors begin regional tournament play at Elk Point.
The luck of the draw has Vermillion playing the "play-in" game again this year, so Post 1 takes on Dakota Valley at 1 p.m. A victory will send Post 1 into another game against Elk Point immediately after the first one. A loss in the opener would put Vermillion into the losers' bracket.
Canton and Beresford are the other two teams in the regional, the champion from which will advance to the state "B" tournament at Lennox July 21-25.
Last year Coach Jason Gault's Post 1 team won that play-in game but lost in the game immediately thereafter, forcing them to fight their way back through the losers' bracket. That was not a problem, however, as Vermillion won four straight contests to claim the regional title, then went 5-0 the following week to capture the state tourney at Platte.
The final week of the regular season began Monday at the Independence Day celebration in Lennox. Post 1 saw a seven-game winning streak come to an end in the opener, losing to Lennox 6-4, but Vermillion rallied in the nightcap to win 10-1 and take a 14-9 record into a Tuesday game at Beresford, the final contest prior to the regional.
Vermillion loaded the bases on three walks in the top of the first of Monday's opener but couldn't score. That trio of stranded baserunners would prove to be the first of nine left on base in the game.
Lennox got a two-run double from Brady DeStigter in its half of the first to take a 2-0 lead. Post 1 went ahead, however, with a three-run third highlighted by Cory Taggart's double, an infield error and Tyler Husby's two-run single.
Lennox tied the game at 3-3 when a run scored on a wild pitch in the fourth, but Husby tied it up all by himself with a leadoff home run to straightaway left field in the sixth. But Lennox scored three times in the sixth on three hits and two walks, and Post 1 could not answer in its final at-bat.
Husby had three of Vermillion's eight hits along with his three RBIs, and Taggart had a two-hit game. Brian Hansen went all the way on the mound, allowing seven hits, walking four and fanning six.
Post 1 took advantage of Lennox pitching wildness with a strange five-run first inning in the nightcap, sending 10 men to the plate. Four of them walked, three were hit by pitches, two were stranded but five scored without the aid of a single base hit.
Vermillion scored two more in the third on Scott Iverson's two-run single and two more in the fifth on Grant Lueders' leadoff double, another hit batter, Jason Rasmussen's sacrifice fly and Taggart's RBI single.
Taggart provided the crowning touch to the victory with a home run beyond the left-field fence in the seventh. It was his third hit of the game, half of the team's total of six.
Back-to-back doubles in the third provided Lennox with its only score off Nick Anglin, who went the distance. He gave up seven hits, walked only two and struck out four.
Last week Vermillion won three games in three nights, scoring 43 runs in the process. It started with an 11-0 win over Canton which featured an 18-hit attack and scores in every inning. Zach McDonald went 3-for-3, and Hansen and Kyle Nemec both had two hits and two RBIs. Stormy Mirtz contributed a two-out two-run single, and D'Andre Fore had two hits and scored three times.
Husby started on the mound and threw six innings of shutout ball, walking two, fanning four and giving up five hits. Robert Osterberg made his first appearance of the season to pitch the seventh and faced three men. The first batter walked but was erased in a double play, then Osterberg got the final out on a fly ball.
After a 17-9 win over Bon Homme at Tabor, Post 1 came home Friday night to dismantle Dakota Valley. Taggart pitched three innings and Lueders four, combining to limit the visitors to five hits. Meanwhile, Post 1 had 12 hits en route to a 15-1 seven-inning win.
A five-game losing streak spread over three rain-filled weekends in June came to an explosive halt when Vermillion defended its championship at the Winner tournament, going a perfect 4-0 and scoring 49 runs in doing so.
Taggart pitched the three-inning complete game in a 16-0 win over Mobridge that ended via the 15-run rule. He gave up two hits and no walks and struck out three. He got early support in a three-run Vermillion first with runs scoring on Nemec's single, Lueders' triple and Hansen's double. Post 1 then scored 10 times off seven hits, including a Nemec triple and two-out doubles by McDonald and Iverson, in the second. Iverson, Hansen and Fore had three-hit games.
With his pitch count at only 24 from the Mobridge game, Taggart pitched again in a match against host Winner. He was an ace on the hill yet again after Winner scored three unearned runs in the first. Taggart went five innings, and Nemec relieved to get a save. They combined for seven strikeouts and four walks.
Post 1 broke a 6-6 tie when Iverson's single scored McDonald, who an inning later singled home Fore with an insurance run in an 8-6 Post 1 triumph.
A rematch of last year's state tourney game against Platte was no contest as Vermillion won 15-0. Anglin hurled a four-inning no-hitter on the mound, walking one and fanning two. Rasmussen went 2-for-3 with three RBIs and three runs scored. Taggart had three RBIs and scored four times. Nemec drove in four and scored twice.
Playing Winner again in the championship game, Vermillion left no doubt with a 10-0 win. Hansen stepped up with five innings of shutout baseball, walking two and permitting four hits.
Rasmussen had two doubles and scored three; Taggart had two hits, three runs and two RBIs, and Nemec drove in two runs with two hits. Hansen likewise plated two runs, and Mirtz had a two-out double to score a run.