Two games into their regional tournament last week, Vermillion's varsity Teeners were on the verge of being the only one of the three youth baseball teams in town not to qualify for their state tournament.
But their perseverance prevailed through a marathon of a week that included two overnight weather delays. Vermillion had to win three straight elimination games to qualify for the state tourney, and that's what they accomplished.
Coach T.J. Beacom's 15-16 year-olds open state tournament play at noon today (Friday) against Madison in Tabor. Also in the top bracket are Parkston and Big Stone City. The evening quarterfinals at 5:30 pit Humboldt against Groton and Tyndall vs. Dakota Valley. The tournament runs through Sunday.
After bombing Irene-Hurley, 10-1, a week ago Monday and losing to Lennox, 16-10, on Tuesday, it was do-or-die for the Teeners against Beresford on Wednesday. Vermillion scored seven runs in the third inning and led 11-7 after 4 1/2 innings when the rains came. The game resumed at 5 p.m. Thursday, and the Teeners picked right up where they had left off, plating eight runs in the sixth and eventually ousting Beresford by the football score of 21-14.
Peter Haught went 4-for-5, including three doubles, and scored four times. Ty Iverson had three hits and Seth Heine and Justin Bendesky two hits each. Colin Olson, the winning pitcher, started the third-inning explosion with a crucial squeeze. He also had a double and scored twice.
After a two-hour break, Vermillion had to play again Thursday night, and this time they eliminated Irene-Hurley, 8-6. Jacob Odens pitched the complete game for a four-strikeout win as his team scored three in the first and three more in the second to get off on the right foot.
Bendesky and Olson each doubled while Jay Munger, Iverson and Haught each singled. Seth Miller squeezed in a run in the top of the seventh.
Needing one more win to enter the championship game and thus qualify at the very least as the region's runner-up, Vermillion showed the loss to Lennox earlier in the week was likely a fluke. This time it was a 12-2 Vermillion win as Olson pitched six innings, striking out seven.
Vermillion didn't score till the fourth but crossed the plate four times in that inning, three more times in the fifth and the sixth and twice in the seventh to pull away from Lennox. Olson had a 4-for-4 night as a hitter, scoring twice. Haught, Iverson and Ethan James also had two hits each and scored twice.
With the pressure off, Vermillion entered Friday's championship game against Dakota Valley. The Panthers led 5-1 after three innings when an incoming storm forced suspension of play till the next day. Down 7-1, Vermillion tried to rally, scoring twice in the fifth on a double by Heine and a sacrifice fly by Iverson. Two more runs in the sixth on a hit by James and a balk pulled Vermillion to within 7-5, but the rally ended there as Dakota Valley scored four seventh-inning runs, three of them on wild pitches, to clinch the regional title.
Munger had two hits in the game, James an RBI single and James a two-run double.
Vermillion takes a record of 28-13 into the state tournament.