Tanagers’ winning ways earn them Region 1B championship

The Vermillion Tanagers began a winning streak with two wins at Mount Vernon on Easter Monday.  Their 13th win in a row, a 9-4 victory over that same Mount Vernon/Plankinton/Woonsocket (MVPW) team, earned them the Region 1B high school baseball championship last Wednesday and completed a sweep by VHS of every game against a regional opponent this season.

The Vermillion Tanagers baseball team celebrates on the Prentis Park diamond after defeating MVPW to claim the Region 1B championship last Wednesday. (Photo by David Lias)

The largest crowd of the season that packed the Prentis Park grandstand didn't see a pretty game by any means, but it was an exhilarating one as the Tanagers escaped some shaky early innings, then took the lead and expanded on it as the game progressed.

The game was a scorekeeper's nightmare as 11 errors were charged – six on VHS and five on the opponents – but the visitors' errors hurt them more deeply.  Tanager batters, too, came through in the clutch with eight hits, six of them in the third, fourth and fifth innings when VHS scored all of its runs.

Nate Garrett survived a rugged 32-pitch first inning with only one run scoring.  A walk, a single and an infield bobble produced one MVPW run, but Garrett left the bases loaded when he coaxed a grounder to third-baseman Tanner Anderson for a force play.

Garrett was back on track in the second inning, needing only seven pitches to retire the side.  That stanza ended with a double play when center-fielder D'Andre Fore caught a fly and doubled a baserunner off first base.

Fore stepped to the forefront even more dramatically in the third.  MVPW, as the result of an error and a wild pitch, had a man on second base with one out.  MVPW's Justin Davis drove a blast to left-center, destined to roll to the wall, but Fore, racing to his right, dived for the ball and caught it.  The baserunner was already around third base and was easily doubled up to end that threat.

MVPW starter Cory London had struck out three Tanager batters in the first two innings, but Fore's spectacular catch fired up the VHS offense in the bottom of the third with one out.  Of course in this game an error started it all as Jayce Huska reached base on a shortstop's miscue.  D'Andre Fore walked, and Caleb Miller hit tied the game.  Chayse Meierkort's sacrifice fly gave VHS a 2-1 lead it would never relinquish.  Anderson followed with an RBI smash through the left side of the infield for a 3-1 advantage.

Tanner Settles tripled in the fourth and scored on a grounder off Joe Mazour's bat to make it 4-1 in the fourth.

MVPW rallied with two runs in the fifth to make it a tense 4-3 game again, but the Tanagers' third double play of the game ended that inning.  Anderson threw to Miller for a third-to-first second out, and when a baserunner tried to go from first to third on the play, Miller returned the ball back to Anderson for a tag at third.

The Tanagers then blew the game open in their half of that inning.

With one out Miller reached on yet another error, and Meierkort walked.  Anderson made it a three-RBI game for himself as he destroyed the baseball with a blast to left field for a two-run double.  Stormy Mirtz singled, and he and Anderson both scored on Collin Bertram's double.  Mazour again put the ball in play with his bat, and the result was another MVPW error that scored Bertram for a 9-3 Tanager lead.

MVPW scored a run off two Tanager errors in the top of the sixth, but Garrett ended that uprising safely by getting batters to hit into a pair of infield pop flies.

Nile Morecraft relieved to pitch the seventh.  On one pitch he got his first man on a pop-up to Miller at first base.  A pair of hits got through the infield to give MVPW faint hope, but catcher Meierkort went back to the grandstand screen to latch on to a high foul ball.  Then a grounder to Anderson at third resulted in a force play at second to end the game and crown the Tanagers as champs.

Garrett, during his six innings of pitching, walked four and gave up only three hits.  London, who had to quit after six innings because he had reached the pitch count limit of 106 pitches by that time, gave up seven hits, nine runs and three walks while fanning five, and his teammates' three errors helped make his work difficult.  Reliever Deric Denning pitched the final 1 2/3 innings, allowing only one hit and walking one, but he was victimized by a pair of errors by his defense as well.

Anderson and Mirtz had two hits each among VHS's eight.  Besides Anderson's three RBIs, Bertram and Mazour had two each and Miller and Meierkort one apiece.

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