When we're shoveling snow in April, remember it was 80-plus degrees at the West High baseball diamond in Sioux City on Sunday, March 18, as Vermillion High School's season opened with a doubleheader split with the Sioux City Bancrofts.
The Tanagers cruised to a 9-3 win in the opener, then let the nightcap get away late in a 4-1 loss. The Bancrofts are an American Legion team whose roster includes players from 16 different high schools across a 70-mile stretch of northwest Iowa.
The singling Collin Bertram scored on Nate Garrett's double to get the Tanagers rolling in the second inning of the first game, then Vermillion came up with a four-run third to build a 5-0 lead for pitching starter Bertram. Two infield grounders allowed the first of those four runs to cross the plate. Joe Mazour's single and a wild pitch scored the other two. D'Andre Fore and Stormy Mirtz also had key hits earlier in the inning.
With Coach Jason Gault watching each man's pitch count carefully on this opening day, the Bancrofts got to Bertram for a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth. He left with the bases loaded and two out in favor of reliever Nate Garrett, who got his first batter on a pop to first base to end the threat. The Iowans got only one more run off Garrett the rest of the way, and he finished strong, retiring eight of the last nine men he faced.
Meanwhile, the Tanagers tacked on an insurance run on a walk, a stolen base, an infield out and a wild pitch in the fifth. Vermillion put the game in the bag with a three-run seventh, an inning in which Tanner Settles' single and Mirtz's double produced runs as did an infield error.
Bertram struck out six and allowed six hits during his 3 2/3 innings, and Garrett fanned one and gave up two hits in his 3 1/3 innings of relief. Robert Kron, the second of four Bancroft hurlers, took the loss.
Mirtz and Fore had two hits apiece among Vermillion's eight. Mirtz drove in a pair of runs while Settles, Chayse Meierkort, Tanner Anderson, Mazour and Garrett each had one RBI.
In the second game, at the same time pitcher Meierkort was holding the Iowans to a lone run in the fifth inning, the Tanagers were wasting opportunities, stranding eight men on base in the second through fifth innings while scoring only one run themselves. That came in the third when Fore doubled and scored on Meierkort's base knock.
Three singles and a walk off sixth-inning reliever Nile Morecraft lifted the Bancrofts into the lead, and an extra run scored when the Tanager infield committed two errors on the same play as they tried in vain to complete a double play at first and to then nab an advancing runner at third.
Bancrofts reliever Miles Kleinhesselink, who pitched the sixth and seventh innings, got five of his six outs on strikeouts and picked up the win in relief.
Fore had three hits and Mirtz and Meierkort two apiece among the Tanagers' total of nine.
The Tanager season continues with more non-league action against Dakota Valley in North Sioux City on Saturday. The JV game starats at 2 p.m. with the varsity to follow at 4. VHS will have five more road games after that before finally opening its home season on April 16 against Dakota Valley.