Like that little engine that chugged up the mountain against all odds in a long-ago children's storybook, Vermillion's Post 1 baseball team just keeps coming up with performances beyond
Five days after losing a doubleheader to South Sioux City by 13-3 and 10-3 scores, Post 1 beat South Sioux City twice in its own tournament, knocking the host team out of their pool, and then dominated the winner of the other pool, Ralston, Neb., to win the championship.
Vermillion's four victories in the tournament lifted its season record to 11-5. Post 1 pitching allowed only six total runs in the four games.
But new challenges lie ahead in the immediate future, starting tonight (Friday) at Mitchell against one of the state's Class "A" powers. On Sunday night Post 1 goes to Hartington, Neb., and on Tuesday Beresford will be at Prentis Park for a 6:30 game.
Post 1 – 9, Ralston 3
The Ralston team from the Omaha area had gone 3-0 in its pool play, but they were stymied in Sunday's championship game by a gutsy performance by pitcher Nile Morecraft in stifling, sticky conditions. The tall right-hander struck out seven, walked two and allowed seven hits, but Ralston compacted all of its runs and three of its hits in the one inning they created a little static against him.
After Vermillion had taken a 2-0 lead, scoring in the first inning as they almost always do, Ralston's first two second-inning batters both drove the ball on the fly to the base of the outfield wall for doubles. A walk, a sacrifice bunt, a balk call and a single lifted Ralston into a 3-2 lead with one out. Morecraft, however, nailed the final two outs of the inning on a strikeout and a force play.
Post 1 went right back to work and had a 7-3 lead by the time the second inning ended.
The beginning of the third inning was a carbon copy of the second as the first two Ralston sluggers drove the ball deep for hits. But with runners at second and third and nobody out, Morecraft stood tallest of all by striking out the side with no damage done.
In the fourth he had major help from his defense. For the first out catcher Chayse Meierkort sprang from home plate and raced halfway to third base to catch a foul pop-up before it landed. To end the inning right-fielder Joe Mazour went back, back, back and with his back to the infield hauled down a fly at the warning track.
In fact, the outfielders were busy—Mazour had two catches, D'Andre Fore in center had three and Nate Garrett in left had two. Meierkort had another foul pop-up catch behind the plate. Stormy Mirtz at second base was responsible for a pair of put-outs. Third-baseman Tanner Anderson caught one infield fly and scooped up a pair of tough grounders on which first baseman Collin Bertram made out-saving scoops on the receiving end.
Morecraft retired Ralston in order in the fifth after the leadoff man singled. He breezed through a 1-2-3 sixth inning. In the seventh a hit batter and a walk put two on with one out, but Morecraft closed things down in style with a strikeout and a fly ball which Fore pocketed to win the title.
Vermillion's two first-inning tallies came about as Fore singled, stole second and scored on Anderson's hit, his seventh of the tournament. A stolen base and a passed ball later, Anderson scored on Meierkort's infield grounder.
The five-run second included five Post 1 hits and a balk. Fore, Meierkort and Bertram had RBI hits in the inning, another run scored on a wild pitch, and another crossed on one of two Ralston errors in the inning.
Morecraft's single, his third hit of the game, followed by Fore's double, his third hit, gave Post 1 an important insurance run in the fifth. In the sixth after two hit batters and a walk loaded the bases, Tanner Settles put his bat on the ball for an infield grounder that produced the game's final run.
Post 1 – 5, South Sioux City 2
If South Sioux was really "saving" its pitching ace, college prospect Austin Groth, for the championship game, the strategy backfired because the host team never got there. Collin Bertram struck out eight, walked three and allowed seven hits in controlling South Sioux in Sunday morning's game that determined a berth in the title game.
Of course Vermillion scored in the first inning—three runs this time on a single by Fore, an RBI single by Anderson, a wild pitch, a walk to Meierkort and his stolen base and Bertram's double. In the fourth the Post 1 lead reached 5-0 on Anderson's double, walks to Meierkort and Mirtz and sacrifice flies by Bertram and Garrett.
South Sioux scored twice in the fourth with the runs crossing on a wild pitch and a Kaleb Comstock single.
Bertram dug down deep several times to escape trouble. He stranded runners at second and third in the first inning. After two walks the same was true in the sixth. In the seventh South Sioux threatened with two singles, but those men were also stranded, and Bertram ended the game in style with a called third strike on the home team's clean-up hitter, Alex Mogenson, who had gone 2-for-3 up to that point.
Anderson had three of Post 1's eight hits.
Post 1 – 3, Arlington 0
The first of two Saturday five-inning games, shortened to get the tourney back on schedule after a five-hour rain delay, saw Vermillion score three first-inning runs, and that was all they would need as Nate Garrett shut down Arlington, Neb., on three hits while striking out five and walking none.
Leadoff man D'Andre Fore was safe on an infield error to start the bottom of the first. A double by Tanner Anderson scored one run, a single by Chayse Meierkort brought home the second, and a single by Collin Bertram produced the third.
Bertram had another hit later, and Nile Morecraft and Fore also had one hit apiece among Vermillion's total of six off Joe Vampola.
Post 1 tried its best to give Garrett an even larger comfort margin but stranded a runner at third base in the second, third and fourth innings.
Arlington put its leadoff man aboard in the third, but catcher Meierkort gunned him down as he tried to steal second base. The leadoff man in the fifth reached on a single and advanced to third on a pair of infield ground-outs, but Garrett got the final man on another grounder to third-baseman Anderson to preserve the shutout.
Post 1 – 2, South Sioux City 1
Because Wisner-Pilger, Neb., backed out of the tournament, the host SSC team filled in to provide an opponent for Post 1's second Saturday game although it did not count in the tourney's pool standings. Again all the scoring was in the first inning, and again the Vermillion pitcher did not walk anybody.
This time it was Joe Mazour on the mound. He struck out one and allowed six hits but most importantly kept South Sioux scoreless after its first batter of the game, Austin Groth, singled, advanced to second on an outfield fly and scored as an attempt to prevent his stealing third sailed down the left-field line. Groth would have scored later in the inning anyway on another hit.
South Sioux in its last at-bat again saw Groth try to do damage. He led off with a double and was sacrificed to third with one out, representing the tying run 90 feet away. But Mazour got the next two batters on a grounder to short and a fly to center to end the game.
Vermillion scored its two runs in the first when Anderson, continuing a torrid pace over the past three games, singled and Meierkort doubled. A single by Stormy Mirtz plated the first run, and Collin Bertram's sacrifice fly brought in the other.
Post 1's other two hits later in the game were also by Anderson and Meierkort.
Post 1 – 16, Yankton 2
Given a comfortable lead with a seven-run first inning by his teammates, Nile Morecraft cruised to a full-game seven-inning pitching victory over the Yankton split squad last Thursday. At the same time the Vermillion offense smoked the ball all over Riverside Field for 15 hits.
If anybody was sorry to see the game end, it was Tanner Anderson. In the absence of regular leadoff man, D'Andre Fore, Anderson was shifted up to that spot. All he did was go 5-for-5, hitting, in order, a double, a double, a single, a triple and a double. He drove in seven runs, and in two hours' time he raised his batting average from .256 to .340.
Two other regulars, Jayce Huska and Caleb Miller, were also missing, but the nine men who were there all participated in the lopsided victory. Joe Mazour, Nate Garrett and Stormy Mirtz had two hits each. Collin Bertram, Chayse Meierkort, Tanner Settles and Peter Haught all had one hit each. Bertram and Garrett had two RBIs apiece, while Colin Olson, Mazour, Settles, Mirtz and Meierkort each drove in one.
Vermillion's seven-run first included two doubles by Anderson, a double by Meierkort and singles by Mirtz, Settles and Garrett. Two of the key plays weren't hits—Mazour worked a walk and Olson was hit with a pitch to set a bases-loaded table for Anderson, who promptly doubled home the last three runs of the inning. Post 1 was off to the races.
Mirtz blasted a solo home run in the second inning off the left-field fair pole. Anderson and Bertram drove in runs in the third. In the fifth Anderson's triple scored two, and Bertram followed with a sacrifice fly. An Olson sacrifice fly and another Anderson RBI resulted in a pair in the sixth. Mazour had an RBI single in the last inning to end the onslaught.
Morecraft showed the best way for a pitcher to stay out of trouble—don't walk anybody! He didn't while striking out seven. Yankton had only five hits. Three of them came in the second inning when both Post 12 runs scored. The other two hits came in the fifth, but Morecraft picked one of them off base, then started a string of five straight strikeouts to end that last threat.
As an exclamation point on the win, center-fielder Garrett made a superlative diving catch of a sinking line drive to end the game.