By Parker Knox
Maybe tonight. Maybe not till next Tuesday. Maybe not till April 3.
Depending on the local area’s spring weather, the Vermillion High School baseball season will begin tonight in North Sioux City when the Tanagers take on Dakota Valley in a non-league season opener.
As this week began, there was still snow on the baseball field next to the Dakota Valley schools, and the forecast for last night and today was not favorable for baseball. So it is possible the 5 p.m. varsity game and the 7 p.m. JV contest will not go off as scheduled.
The Tanager slate calls for a trip to Harrisburg next Tuesday, March 26 (varsity at 5, JV at 7:30). After that the next date is a matchup at Yankton on April 3.
Whenever the season begins, Vermillion has a state championship to defend, and the Tanagers are eager to begin that challenge.
As Jason Gault returns for his 14th season as VHS head coach, as usual he will have at his disposal a combination of veteran players but some holes to be filled by youngsters moving up.
It is expected, too, that the “small ball” style of baseball that has been so successful for Gault in his high school and Legion programs in recent years will be Vermillion’s style again this spring.
“With no real power threats offensively, we will likely rely on our small ball to put pressure on defenses,” Gault said. “The Tanagers will need to stick with their philosophy of throwing strikes and playing good defense to keep games close.”
Gault added that team speed will be a key factor in moving baserunners into scoring position.
“Some players who were very successful at the Teener and JV levels last year will be asked to step up and make considerable contributions this season,” Gault said.
Five starters return from the ballclub that enjoyed an 18-3 season last spring, climaxing with victories over Milbank in the state Class “B” semifinals and over St. Thomas More in the championship game. They are Tanner Settles at shortstop, Tanner Anderson at third base, pitcher-outfielder Collin Bertram, catcher-infielder-outfielder Jayce Huska and pitcher-outfielder Joe Mazour. Other notable returnees are outfielder Peter Haught, outfielder-pitcher Colin Olson and catcher Ty Iverson.
The left side of the infield on defense will be anchored by the Tanners. Both men are three-year starters. Bertram will anchor the pitching rotation with the promising addition of Olson and Mazour. Gault’s outfield is loaded with good speed and decent arms with the likes of Olson, Haught, Mazour, Bertram, Jack Brown and Jacob Odens available.
“The coaching staff feels that, with offseason workouts and a yerar of growth of our younger players, VHS should be in the hunt for a Region 1B title again,” Gault said. “This year’s region will be as tough as ever, so it could be anyone’s region to win. We will just keep focusing on our goal of taking it one game at a time.”
Vermillion will be part of Region 1B’s Eastern Division along with Beresford-Centerville, Dakota Valley, Elk Point-Jefferson and Bon Homme-Scotland. When postseason tournament time arrives in May, the divisional champion from among that group will clash with the champion of Region 1B West, whose teams are Hanson County, Parkston, Mount Vernon-Plankinton-Woonsocket, and Wagner-Avon-Lake Andes. The overall regional champion then advances to Sioux Falls on Memorial Day to join three other regional champs in the state semifinals.
To access the complete VHS baseball schedule, go to www.vermillion.k12.sd.us and click on “athletics” and then “baseball” on the high school page.