After Vermillion and Beresford had split a pair of regular-season games, the Watchdogs had the last word.
In a game squeezed into a two-hour window between rainstorms last Friday, Beresford scored the winning run in the bottom of the final inning on its home field to end the Tanagers' season, 7-6, in the semifinal round of the Region 1B Eastern Division playoffs.
With two out, the bases empty and the score tied 6-6, the third and fourth men in the Watchdogs' batting order got the job done. Matt Hoines singled, then Kyle DeLay followed with a smash between Vermillion's center and right fielders to score Hoines and advance Beresford to the Eastern Division finals against Bon Homme.
The winning rally offset a magnificent top of the seventh by the Tanagers, who, it had appeared, were hopelessly out of the game after Beresford had broken a 2-2 tie with a four-run bottom of the sixth.
Even as they came off the field following Beresford's sixth-inning explosion, Tanager players were saying they weren't done yet, and they were right. Tanner Anderson's great at-bat to work a leadoff walk off Watchdog reliever Dan Frieberg got the ball rolling. D'Andre singled, and Tanner Settles did the same, loading the bases with nobody out.
Chayse Meierkort's patience at the plate paid off with a walk that forced in a run, and Vermillion was within 6-3. A Beresford conference on the mound paid off temporarily as Frieberg got Scott Iverson to pop out to shortstop and struck out Tyler Husby on a swinging third strike.
The Tanagers were down to their last out, but Stormy Mirtz proved to be the hero. He got perfect wood on the ball and drove it to the right-field wall just to the left of the Beresford center-fielder. While the Watchdog outfielders chased down the baseball, the infield looked like a merry-go-round as Fore, Settles and Meierkort circled the bases. Mirtz had tied the game with one mighty blow, and he stood on second base with the potential lead run. But an infield ground ball was successfully played by shortstop Jackson Anderson to end the inning and send the tied game into the fateful bottom of the seventh.
Beresford had taken an early 1-0 lead in the third on a hit by Chris Mohr, a sacrifice bunt by Hayden Plamer and an RBI single by Anderson. The Tanagers responded in the fifth to take the lead. Zach McDonald led off with a single, went to second on Tanner Anderson's sacrifice, and scored on Fore's RBI double. Fore was wild-pitched to third and scored the lead run on a Beresford infield error.
The Watchdogs tied it immediately in their half of the fifth on a single by Ty Knutson, a Mohr sacrifice and a long fly ball by Colin Peterson that fell behind a Tanager outfielder.
Collin Bertram had done a heroic job on the mound as Vermillion's starter, but in the bottom of the sixth a leadoff walk and a hit batter ignited Beresford's four-run inning. An RBI single by Andrew Erickson was followed by a three-run homer by Knutson, a man who had started the season on Beresford's JV squad. With the score 6-2, Bertram settled down and got the side out on a pair of balls to second-baseman Anderson, setting the stage for Vermillion's stunning rally to tie the game in the seventh.
Bertram struck out three and walked only two while allowing seven hits. Meanwhile, Beresford starter Jackson Anderson threw five innings, striking out one, walking two and giving the Tanagers three hits. The other four Vermillion hits came off reliever Frieberg in his two innings of work. He also walked two and fanned a pair.
Fore had two of the Tanagers' seven base knocks, and Knutson had two of Beresford's seven.
The Tanagers' high school season ended with a record of 4-9.
The American Legion Post 1 season was set to begin last night (Thursday) with Post 1 at Elk Point. The season opener will be at Prentis Park at 6 p.m. Saturday against Lennox. Next Tuesday Beresford comes to Vermillion for Legion ball. The Lewis & Clark Wood Bat Classic is set for Vermillion, Yankton and Hartington ballparks on Friday-Sunday, June 3-5.
The Post 1 roster will include many of the same players from this spring's VHS squad although a pair of veterans who graduated from high school a year ago still have a year of Legion eligibility remaining. Jason Rasmussen returns from his freshman year at Augustana to play shortstop, and Nick Anglin, who played college ball at Dakota Wesleyan, will be a big force on the Post 1 pitching staff.
Post 1 is again being mentored by head coach Jason Gault, assisted by Nick Mayer and Drew Lawrence.