Several members of Vermillion's VFW 15-16 Teeners got a sweet taste of state championship baseball when their team won the state title in a younger Teener division just two summers ago. Now in the oldest Teener age division, they have a chance to do it again.
Vermillion completed a week of outstanding baseball with their fourth win without a loss in the Region 1A tournament at Elk Point, capturing the crown with an 8-1 domination of Canton Friday, just 24 hours after clinching a state tourney slot with a 14-0 win over the same team. Canton then won an elimination game over Beresford early Friday evening and would have had to beat Vermillion twice to win the championship. Nevertheless, as runners-up, Canton also advances to the state classic that starts in Flandreau today (Friday).
Vermillion takes on Groton, runner-up from the northeast region, in the tournament opener at noon. The other matchup in the upper bracket is Garretson-Parkston. Vermillion's second game will be Saturday at noon or 5:30 p.m. against the loser or winner of Garretson-Parkston.
The bottom bracket matchups are Tyndall-Canton and Webster-Flandreau. The tourney plays out to six places with Sunday's games at noon, 3 and 6.
Collin Bertram gave the Teeners exactly the kind of start to Friday's championship game they wanted, shutting down Canton. He struck out two in each of the four innings he pitched. Only in the third was Canton able to do anything, putting together a leadoff single and a two-out single for its only run of the game. Canton also had a leadoff single in the fourth, but catcher Chayse Meierkort threw out that batter tryiing to steal second base. It was the fourth straight tourney game in which he had picked off at least one baserunner.
As he had done the night before, Nile Morecraft came in in the fifth in relief. He gave up a leadoff single, but that man stayed right there as Morecraft got a strikeout and two infield grounders to end the inning. He also struck out a pair in the sixth, and a gorgeous play by shortstop Tanner Settles to end the inning stranded another Canton runner. Meierkort pitched the seventh and barely worked up a sweat, starting with a strikeout, snaring a dribbler himself and ending with a strikeout.
Vermillion's three pitchers got 13 strikeouts among the 21 Canton outs. Seven were infield grounders. Obviously the outfielders had nothing to do but cheer.
The champs sent nine men to the plate in the second against Zach DeJong, doing all their damage with two out. After a leadoff single by Morecraft and a hit by Joe Mazour, Peter Haught drove in the game's first run with a single. Vermillion gladly accepted two more runs that were let in on passed balls. A fourth scored on an infield error.
A run in the third came with a lot of help from Canton � Jayce Huska was hit with a pitach, went to second on a passed ball, stole third and scored on a catcher's wild throw.
The way Bertram was pitching, three more runs in the fourth were more than enough. A wild pitch allowed one to score, an RBI hit by Morecraft plated another, and a ground ball off Huska's bat made it 8-1, and that's the way the game stayed.
Of Vermillion's seven hits, Morecraft had two. Colin Olson. who was hit with a pitch in each of the four tourney games, scored twice.
Thursday's game against Canton to determine a championship game participant and a state tournament qualifier was tense for two innings, but a spectacular 11-run, nine-hit top of the third put Canton's lights out in a hurry. A pair of unearned runs in the fourth made it 14-0, and that's the way it ended after five because of the 10-run mercy rule.
Bertram also pitched the first four innings of this game. He gave up a leadoff double in the first but stranded that runner right there by striking out a pair and ending the inning with a pop-up to first base. In the second a single and a walk gave Canton two baserunners, but catcher Meierkort threw out a man trying to steal second, and a grounder to second base ended that threat. In the third Bertram gave up a one-out walk and a two-out single, but surrounding those two batters were three strikeouts.
Working with a 12-0 comfort zone, reliever Morecraft saw the first man he faced reach second base on an infield throwing error, but otherwise he was untouchable. He retired the next six men in a row to end the game � three on strikeouts and three on infield plays.
Together the two Vermillion moundsmen allowed no runs, three hits and two walks, and of the 15 Canton outs, eight were strikeouts.
Vermillion had taken a 1-0 lead in the second when Huska doubled with two out, went to third on a balk and scored on Mazour's RBI single.
Then came the magical third, beginning with Olson's getting drilled in the back by a pitch. With one out, the ability to reach base suddenly spread like chickenpox up and down the batting order. The next 11 batters reached base, and everybody shared in the fun.
Settles and Meierkort singled, then Morecraft and Bertram punched RBI singles past infielders. After Huska walked, Mazour walked with the bases loaded to make the score 4-0.
The two biggest hits came next as Haught and Olson each doubled, each bringing across two runs. Anderson and Settles followed with RBI singles, and after a Meierkort double, Morecraft lofted a sacrifice fly to complete the scoring.
In the fourth Mazour and Haught both reached on errors. They scored on a sacrifice fly by Olson and Settles' third hit of the game.
Each of Vermillion's nine batters scored at least once, and each had at least one hit among the team's 13. Seven of them had RBIs, including Olson joining Settles in the three-RBI column.
Canton scored 24 runs in its other three regional games, but against Vermillion pitching in two games they had one run, seven hits and 21 strikeouts in 12 innings.