Tanager baseball extends win streak; prepares for Monday semifinal

Jayce Huska’s single in the sixth inning Saturday ended the Tanagers game with Parkston Saturday at Prentis Park via the 10-run rule. (Photo by David Lias)

For the Vermillion High baseball team the postseason playoffs can't begin soon enough.

The Tanagers won four times within six days this week, extending their winning streak to 10, completing a perfect 10-0 sweep through Region 1B play and finishing the regular season with a record of 13-3.

The semifinal game in Region 1B-East – #1 Vermillion vs. #4 Dakota Valley – is tentatively set for 6 p.m. Monday at Prentis Park.  Fans should check the VHS website at www.vermillion.k12.sd.us under "Athletics" to verify the date and time.

To reach the state semifinals in Sioux Falls on Memorial Day, the Tanagers have to win three times starting Monday.

The Tanagers have developed a strong pitching rotation as this season has progressed.  In the 10 games against Region 1B teams, the opponents have scored more than one run only twice.  At the same time VHS has scored fewer than five runs only three times, consistently capitalizing on their small-ball offensive skills and a cut-throat ability to make the enemy pay for every mistake.

VHS completed the regular season Monday with an 8-6 win over Beresford that was an 8-0 shutout until the top of the final inning.  Starter Nile Morecraft struck out six, walking only two and allowing two inconsequential hits in going six innings, but he could not start the seventh due to high school baseball's pitch-count rule. 

 Reliever Chayse Meierkort hit the first two batters of the seventh and gave up an infield bunt hit to load the sacks.  With two out a bases-loaded walk and a bases-loaded hit batter gave Beresford two runs, and a double by Ethan Sorensen added two more.  Joe Mazour was brought in and would have ended the game on his first batter except that he had to make an awkward off-balance throw to first in fielding a weak grounder, and the throw missed its mark, allowing two more runs to score.  With Beresford's tying run at the plate, Mazour slipped a called third strike past Ty Knutson to end the game.

Vermillion scored in each of its first four at-bats.  As happens more often than not, leadoff man D'Andre Fore walked and later scored after a Caleb Miller sacrifice bunt and a Tanner Anderson single.  A misplayed fly ball in left field let another run in.

Tanner Settles' single in the second was followed by a pitcher's wild throw to first in fielding a sacrifice bunt that let Settles score.  In the third Meierkort led off with a double, went to third on Anderson's single and scored on the tail end of a double steal.

A Nate Garrett single, a passed ball, Mitch Ellison's grounder and Fore's sacrifice fly made it 5-0 in the fourth.  A shortstop's error on a grounder that would have ended the inning was bobbled, and that opened the floodgates.  A Meierkort single and an Anderson triple made it 8-0.  As it turned out, those seemingly unimportant runs proved to be very crucial an inning later.

Anderson had three of the seven Tanager hits and three RBIs.

In three wins over last weekend VHS pitching allowed only three earned runs and 11 hits while walking eight and striking out 18.  It began with a 10-3 win at Dakota Valley Thursday.  Starter Morecraft worked four innings of four-hit ball, and Garrett struck out five in three hitless innings in relief.

Spotting the Panthers three first-inning runs, the Tanagers erupted for six in the second, two in the third and single runs in the fourth and sixth to pull away.  A misplayed grounder and a dropped fly early in the inning ignited the six-run second.  Fore had a two-run single, Miller an RBI single and Anderson a two-run double for the inning's biggest hits.

A Meierkort double and an Anderson single produced a run in the fourth.  Two walks and a passed ball set the table for a Collin Bertram sacrifice fly in the sixth.

Fore, Meierkort, Anderson and Mirtz had two hits each among Vermillion's 11.  Anderson drove in three runs, Garrett and Fore two each, and Bertram and Miller one apiece.

On Saturday at home the Tanagers pounced on Parkston with six runs in the first inning and drove starter Spencer Lucas from the game before he could get anybody out.  Miller, Anderson, Mirtz and Garrett all had RBI hits in the inning, and two Parkston errors helped the VHS cause.

A two-run fourth featured RBI hits by Miller and Mirtz.  In the sixth a bases-loaded passed ball put VHS up by 9-0, and Jayce Huska's single ended the game via the 10-run rule.

Bertram cruised on the mound, allowing only two hits, walking one and striking out seven.

Sunday's 6-1 win over Corsica/Stickney/Armour/Ethan started in typical fashion in the first with Fore's single and advance on a throwing error, Miller's sacrifice bunt and Mirtz's single.  A bases-loaded walk and a misplayed ground ball made it 3-0 in the third.

Two walks and a single gave the visitors a run in the fourth, but the Tanagers answered when Fore walked, stole second, was sacrificed along yet again by Miller and scored on Meierkort's single.

Loading the bases on three walks, the Tanagers were handed two gift runs in the fifth when Fore was hit with a pitch and Miler walked.

Vermillion enjoyed another complete-game pitching effort, this time by Garrett, who allowed five hits, walked three and fanned four.  The Tanagers had only four hits themselves, but they came at opportune times, and every Corsica error, walk and miscue was cashed in.

While the VHS varsity awaits Monday's regional opener, the junior varsity team will play in its state tournament in Sioux Falls starting today (Friday).

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