Vermillion Post 1, trying to return to the state American Legion Class "B" tournament for the first time since its championship season of 2009, will open regional play at 4 p.m. next Thursday, July 19, at Lennox.
The tournament begins Wednesday and concludes the following Sunday. It is the first time in the 12 years of Coach Jason Gault's coaching tenure with Post 1 that Vermillion has drawn a first-round bye. The regional champ advances to the state tourney in Milbank July 27-31.
Post 1 took a record of 17-13 into last night's (Thursday) game at Dakota Valley, the final contest of the regular season.
On Tuesday, Post 1 looked to be tournament-ready in a 15-2 and 7-0 sweep at Elk Point. Both games were five-inning contests although the first one ended early due to the 10-run rule.
Vermillion batted 15 men in the second inning of the opener, scoring 11 times on five hits, five walks, and five EP-J errors. Jayce Huska slugged two run-scoring doubles in that inning, Chayse Meierkort had an RBI single, and Stormy Mirtz lofted a sacrifice fly. Post 1 added four runs in the fourth as Collin Bertram, Meierkort and Tanner Anderson contributed RBI hits.
Nile Morecraft was the winning pitcher, allowing six hits, striking out four and walking none over the five innings.
A two-run homer by Anderson in the first inning got Post 1 going in the nightcap. Mirtz singled home two runs, and Tanner Settles and Morecraft also had RBIs in a four-run third. Bertram was the pitching winner, allowing three hits, walking none and striking out eight in the five innings.
Caleb Miller played center field in the second game, the final position on the field he had never yet played under Coach Jason Gault's tenure as high school and Legion coach.
The game was unique in that there was no home-plate umpire. When one of the two-man team from the first game was called away, umpire Randy Bertram was left alone to work the nightcap. He did so from behind and on either side of the pitcher's mound, calling balls, strikes and everything else from there without any controversy or close calls whatsoever.
Post 1 – 12, Lennox 7
In the last home game of the season Saturday, Post 1 led Lennox 6-1 after five innings and appeared to be breezing to victory. However, up to that point, it had been more Lennox mistakes than Vermillion achievements that had built the lead. Despite that lead, through five innings Post 1 had only four hits and had squandered countless opportunities. Up to that point they were 2-of-14 with runners in scoring position.
In the sixth (starter Nate Garrett's last inning) and the seventh (reliever Caleb Miller's first inning), Post 1 began giving runs back to Lennox, committing four infield errors that combined with four Lennox hits gave the visitors six runs in those two stanzas. Vermillion's lead was only 8-7.
But Vermillion pulled itself together, coming up with 10 hits over the next three innings to finally pull away. Meanwhile, second reliever Collin Bertram struck out two in the eighth, speared a line drive to end that inning and started a double play in the ninth as he held Lennox scoreless to get a save to go along with Garrett's win.
Seven players had two hits each for Post 1 – Bertram, Chayse Meierkort, Tanner Anderson, Stormy Mirtz, Jayce Huska, Tanner Settles and Garrett – and Miller had one hit. Meierkort and Huska had two RBIs each.
In one of the season's most unusual plays, Post 1 scored three runs on a bases-loaded walk in the second inning. Anderson drew that walk and forced in Bertram from third. But Ball 4 was a wild pitch, and Miller, who had been on second base, was on Bertram's heels as he crossed the plate. When the Lennox catcher tracked down the ball and threw to the pitcher covering at the plate in an attempt to get the third baserunner, Meierkort, the ball was dropped, allowing the third run to score on the play.
Post 1 – 12, Dell Rapids 2
Nile Morecraft needed only 69 pitches (53 of them strikes) over seven innings to stifle Dell Rapids, 12-2, Friday night. He gave up only four hits and one earned run, striking out four and walking none. Dells scored only in the fourth on a single, a triple and an infield error.
Meanwhile, Post 1 tallied three times in the first and never trailed. Anderson's hit scored one run, but the ball got past the right-fielder to let in a second run. Anderson himself later scored on the tail end of a double steal. Morecraft helped himself with an RBI single in the third right after Huska had scored from third on a similar double steal.
A seven-run fifth ignited by a Mirtz double included RBI hits by Garrett, Miller and Anderson and a sacrifice fly by Meierkort. Anderson drove in three runs and Morecraft two, and Settles and Mirtz had two hits each among Post 1's 10, all off starter Spencer Kerzman, who lasted five innings. The game ended via the 10-run rule after seven.
Rapid City Tournament
Trying to salvage something out of their Rapid City tournament trip, Post 1 had a 5-2 lead through 5 1/2 innings of a consolation semifinal game July 3. Worse yet, they were two outs away from victory with a 5-3 lead, but even that wasn't enough.
Loveland, Colo., scored twice in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game, then won it in the eighth, 6-5, on a two-out single, a stolen base and an error at first base on an inning-ending ground ball.
After Loveland took a first-inning 2-0 lead, Post 1 responded with two runs in the second and two more in the third. An infield grounder from Jayce Huska and Nate Garrett's RBI single produced the first two tallies. A bases-loaded walk to Stormy Mirtz and a wild pitch let in the next two scores. Damarius Cheeseman's hit in the fifth made it 5-2.
Starter Chayse Meierkort had Loveland well in hand through three innings, but from the fourth inning on, he and Post 1 lived dangerously. Loveland stranded two runners in the fourth and two more in the fifth. Then in the sixth a single, a wild pitch and two passed balls gave Loveland a gift run to make it 5-3, and they left the bases loaded.
In the bottom of the seventh with Vermillion two outs from the win, Loveland got three hits, an outfield error and a wild pitch to tie the game and left the sacks jammed again.
Meanwhile, Loveland reliever Aaron Morrison was in the process of retiring 10 of the last 11 Vermillion batters of the game. Morrison got the win in relief. Vermillion reliever Joe Mazour, who pitched that eighth inning, was tagged with the hard-luck pitching loss.
In its first game in Rapid City, Post 1 was one out away from a thrilling come-from-behind win but coughed up a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh, losing to Sheridan, WY, 6-5. An RBI hit by Tanner Anderson and Chayse Meierkort's steal of home rallied Post 1 into a 4-4 tie in the fifth. In the seventh Bertram's one-out double and Meierkort's single gave Vermillion a 5-4 lead.
An infield error and a hit batter put Sheridan's tying and winning runs on base. A double tied the game, and a wild pitch let in the winning run.
Rapid City Post 320 scored three in the sixth on two hits and three Post 1 errors to break a 3-3 tie, then retired Post 1 in the seventh to win, 6-3. A dropped fly in center field and an infield error started Post 320's winning rally. A base hit on a suicide squeeze bunt let in the lead run, and another error allowed an insurance run to score.
Bertram went 5 1/3 innings, giving up three earned runs, fanning five and walking two while allowing seven hits.
A seven-run, eight-hit fifth that included three more Vermillion errors gave Canon City, Colo., a big lead in their 9-1 win over Post 1. The game ended after five innings. Vermillion's only run came on a walk, a sacrifice and two wild pitches. Starter Tanner Settles kept Canon City contained until the disastrous fifth.
Just prior to the Rapid City trip, Vermillion lost to Yankton 14-8, committing nine errors, walking six batters, hitting six others and balking twice. Yankton's defense committed seven errors, keeping Post 1 within striking distance most of the way.