By Parker Knox
Vermillion rallied from a 5-3 deficit in the top of the fourth, then its pitching held Dakota Valley scoreless over the last four innings to preserve a 7-5 victory in North Sioux City Tuesday night as the Tanagers improved their record to 8-1.
The Tanagers go to Beresford tonight (Friday) for the regular season’s final contest. Then they will be home for the first round of the regional playoffs early next week, probably Monday or Tuesday, against whoever wins a play-in game between the Nos. 4 and 5 seeds in Region 1B-East.
VHS at 8-1 is assured of being at home for all playoff games as long as the Tanagers are alive. As of Tuesday, Beresford/Centerville and Bon Homme/Scotland were 5-2, Dakota Valley 3-4 and Elk Point-Jefferson 1-10.
The inability to make plays cost the Tanagers against Dakota Valley on a pair of occasions Tuesday, but by the same token some key defensive plays, once VHS had retaken the lead, saved the day and helped starter Collin Bertram and reliever Colin Olson shut out the Panthers over the final four innings.
Bertram led off the game by beating out an infield chopper to the first baseman and later scored on Tanner Anderson’s hit. A bases-loaded walk coaxed by Joe Mazour gave VHS an early 2-0 lead. Jack Brown made it 3-0 in the second when he scored from third on the tail end of a double steal.
But Dakota Valley erupted for a four-run second to jump on top. A leadoff hit and a walk were followed by a weakly hit ground ball on which Bertram tried to nail the runner advancing to second base. That play wasn’t made, and a run scored. After Aaron Likness’ infield pop-up fell among three infielders, the table was set for pitcher Isaac Faldmo, who delivered a bases-loaded double that made it 4-3 for DV.
The Panthers went up 5-3 in the third on a single, a stolen base and a dropped fly ball deep in center field.
Vermillion started the game-winning rally in the fourth on its own, then had some help from Dakota Valley pitching in retaking the lead. Leadoff hits by Mazour and Seth Heine started it all. After two were out, a walk loaded the bases. Then two more walks and a hit batter forced in three runs.
Heine’s double followed by Bertram’s single made it 7-5 in the fifth, and that’s where the score would remain.
Dakota Valley didn’t roll over by any means. A leadoff walk in the fourth was erased when catcher Jayce Huska nailed a potential base-stealer at second base. A single and a failed pickoff attempt at first gave DV another chance, but Mazour chased down a fly ball in right field, then doubled off a runner at second base to end the inning.
A walk and an error caused trouble in the fifth, but a grounder back to Bertram on the mound set in motion a gorgeous inning-ending double play. Bertram went to third for a force, and third-baseman Tanner Anderson rifled a throw to first to nab the batter.
Olson relieved to start the bottom of the sixth. He mixed in a strikeout between a hit batter and an infield miscue, but Olson picked off a runner at second base for a key out. A foul pop-up to Anderson ended that threat.
The final chance for the Panthers began with Bertram, now playing left field, diving and rolling to make a catch in foul territory for the first out. An easy fly to center and an Olson strikeout ended the game on a high note as he earned the pitching save.
Heine had three of Vermillion’s 11 hits off Faldmo and reliever Cody Sexton. Mazour and Bertram had two hits each. Anderson drove in two runs. Brady Dam had three hits for Dakota Valley.