Vermillion High's softball girls saw their perfect season's record extend to 13-0 with three straight wins in last weekend's state "B" tournament in Sioux Falls.
But then the Tanagers ran into a buzzsaw from Mitchell, and the Kernels, needing to beat the Tanagers twice to claim the state title, did just that, ending Vermillion's dreams for an unbeaten season in the first championship game, then derailing the Tanagers' hopes for the state championship in the second.
Nevertheless Vermillion finished a splendid and exciting season with a 13-2 record as state runners-up.
The Tanagers won handily over Tri-Valley in their opener Saturday morning, 8-1, then sneaked past four-time defending state champ West Central, 1-0, to advance to Sunday noon's winners' bracket semifinal against Mitchell. There the Tanagers staged a big comeback to win 9-7 and move on to the championship game.
Mitchell, meanwhile, dipped down into the losers' bracket to defeat West Central to earn the other spot in the title game. The Kernels used one nightmarish inning in each of the two championship square-offs to doom the Tanagers to defeat, scoring all 10 of their runs in the same inning in a 11-3 win, then scoring five runs in one inning in the finale to win there, 9-5.
Four Tanagers – Carlee Sorensen, Lizzie Bye, Jessie Finch and Sami Girard – were named to the all-tournament team.
Having spotted Mitchell three runs in the first inning and another in the fourth, the Tanagers were in trouble as they came to bat in the top of the fifth Sunday noon in the winners' bracket semifinal.
But at that moment Jessie Finch coaxed a walk, Sami Girard was safe on an error when her sure-out pop fly about 10 feet from home plate was muffed by the Mitchell third-baseman, and Shelby Christopherson beat out a hit to load the bases.
It was clutch-hit time, first for Lindsay Robinet with a two-run single and then Carlee Sorensen with a two-run double to tie the game.
Vermillion followed that explosion with another in a five-run sixth. An infield error started the inning, and VHS took advantage. Finch reached base on an infield hit when nobody covered first. Christopherson came through with an RBI single, Sorensen slugged another two-run hit, and Claire Jones completed the inning with a two-run single.
Mitchell chipped away at that 9-4 lead with one in the sixth and two in the seventh. They had the tying run at the plate with one out in the final inning until pitcher Finch ended the game with an infield grounder she fielded herself and a pop-up to Sorensen, the second-baseman.
Needing only one more win for the state crown, the Tanagers drew first blood in the first championship game, scoring once in the second when Finch singled, moved to third on two walks and scored on a passed ball.
VHS went up 3-0 on Girard's two-run double in the third.
But the bottom of the third inning defied description. Fifteen Mitchell batters strode to the plate, nine of them hit safely, two others reached on costly infield errors, and when that nightmare ended, the Kernels had scored 10 times. They added one more tally in the fourth, and when the Tanagers were retired in the top of the fifth, the game ended via an eight-run rule.
VHS had only four hits in their five innings at the plate, two of them by Jones and two by Finch, who pitched the game for the Tanagers.
The Tanagers' first batter of the second championship game, Sorensen, reached on an error, stole second and scored on Lizzie Bye's sacrifice fly. That was the only time Vermillion would lead as Mitchell scored twice in the second, then assumed a comfortable lead on a five-run, six-hit fifth inning.
The Tanagers cut the 7-1 deficit to 7-3 in the bottom of the fifth on an RBI single by Tori McCleery and a sacrifice fly by Bye, but Mitchell got them right back in the next inning to lead 9-3.
Down to their last out in the seventh, the Tanagers used an error, an RBI double by Bye and an RBI single by Finch to come within 9-5, but an outfield flyball ended the tournament.
Bye, who had pitched the first of the three Mitchell games earlier in the day, also pitched this finale.