By Parker Knox
With the beginning of defense of their state championship only two weeks away, the Vermillion Tanagers were awakened Monday night to the harsh realities of what can happen in sudden-death baseball.
But despite losing leads of 5-1 with two outs to go, 5-3 with one out to go and 8-5 with two outs to go in extra innings, the Tanagers escaped Tabor with a labored 9-8 win over Bon Homme/Scotland. What appeared to be a safe, comfortable victory turned out to be anything but that.
Nevertheless, pretty or ugly, a win is a win, and VHS remained unbeaten at 6-0 against teams in its own district in its attempt to secure home-field advantage through the playoffs.
Starting hurler Colin Olson contained Bon Homme/Scotland to a single run on five hits through five innings. VHS led 5-1 when Olson walked the leadoff man in the sixth. Reliever Joe Mazour came to the mound and promptly got the first out of the inning, needing only two more to end the game. Kodi Larson’s home run cut the lead to 5-3. An outfield fly put the Tanagers one out away from victory, but a walk and a single put the tying runs aboard for BH/S.
Jake Odens, on his first pitch in relief, coaxed Sawyer Fridrich to bounce a ground ball to second, a sure end to the game, but the ball was thrown wildly to first base, two runs scored, and the game was tied. A grounder to shortstop sent the contest to extra innings.
Vermillion rebounded from its disappointing bottom of the seventh with an explosive top of the eighth, scoring three times without a single hit. An error, a walk and an infield grounder sset the table for Tanner Settles. His ground ball was fielded and thrown to home, but pinch runner Regan Bye slid across the plate ahead of the catcher’s tag for a 6-5 lead. Jayce Huska’s sacrifice fly plated another run. Tanner Anderson’s sharply hit grass-cutter went through the second baseman’s legs, and VHS led 8-5.
Odens struck out Bon Homme’s first batter in the bottom of the eighth, but he reached base on a wild pitch on strike three. A walk and a grounder to first base put two in scoring position. An infield error and a wild pitch cut the VHS lead to 8-7. A foul pop-up for the second out left VHS one out away from victory again, but Bon Homme had the tying run at third and the winning run at second base.
Coach Jason Gault saved the game with an intentional walk to load the bases. A single by Fridrich advanced the runners, tying the game at 8-8, but the bases remained full, leaving a chance for a force at any base. That’s what happened when a grounder to Anderson at third was scooped up, and he stepped on the bag to end the inning.
VHS won the game with two out in the top of the ninth. Ty Iverson cracked a double to right field, then promptly scored on an error at shortstop. In the bottom of the ninth, Odens struck out the first batter, fielded a comebacker to the mound for Out No. 2 and slipped a called third strike past the final batter to secure the win with an exclamation point.
The Tanagers had squandered scoring chances in the first two innings, stranding four. They struck in the third with a four-run outburst. Anderson and Jack Brown had run-scoring singles in the inning, Pete Haught’s sizzling double down the left-field chalk line scored another, and a catcher’s heave into center field on a stolen base attempt allowed another tally to score.
Bon Homme had threatened mightily to score first in the second inning, but a bases-loaded dilemma was solved with a sparkling Haught-to-Settles-to-Bertram 4-6-3 double play.
A Tanager run in the top of the seventh at the time seemed inconsequential. It was a typical Tanager run as Anderson reached base on an infield error. When he tried to swipe second base, he just kept going as the ball was first misplayed at second base, then thrown past the dugout trying to nab him at third. Those three errors on one man’s journey around the bases were among 10 errors in the game for the losers.
Odens (2-0) got the pitching win, allowing a single hit while striking out three and walking three in 2 1/3 innings. Austin Kahl, the third BH/S hurler, was stuck with the loss.
Haught had two of Vermillion’s eight hits. Hunter Young had two of Bon Homme’s eight hits.
Vermillion improved to 6-1 overall last Thursday with a 12-2 thumping of Beresford/Centerville in a game shortened by the 10-run mercy rule in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Collin Bertram secured the pitching victory as he went 4 1/3 innings, allowing four hits and two earned runs, striking out four and walking five. Closer Jake Odens fanned one and walked a pair in nailing down what would prove to be the game’s final two outs.
The visitors managed two of their four hits in the top of the first but an inning-ending strikeout by Bertram left both men stranded. Beresford/Centerville had two more baserunners in the second on walks, but a force play at third base ended that threat.
A lone run in the third scored off a pair of singles, and B/C’s other run came in the fifth on a bases-loaded walk.
The Tanagers put the clamps on the opponents early with an 11-batter, seven-hit explosion in the bottom of the first. A sacrifice fly by Tanner Anderson, RBI singles by Ty Iverson, Joe Mazour, Seth Heine and Jack Brown and an infield error put six VHS runs on the board.
A Heine double, followed by another run-scoring single by Brown, made it 7-1 in the bottom of the third.
In the fifth Pete Haught’s leadoff single and Brown’s being nailed with a pitch set the table for Bertram, who doubled home two scores. When Tanner Settles singled and Jayce Huska reached on an error, the Tanagers, needing only two scores to reach the 10-run margin, got them on Anderson’s game-ending double to right field.
Bertram finished with three hits to his credit while Heine and Brown had two each among Vermillion’s 12.
Beresford/Centerville’s losing pitcher was starter Caleb Johnke, who gave up six earned runs and nine hits in three innings of work. Chris Kropuenske threw the final 1 2/3 innings.
The Tanagers have two regular-season contests remaining – at Parkston Sunday (JVs 4 p.m., varsity 6 p.m.) and at home next Thursday against Wagner/Avon/Lake Andes (varsity 6 p.m., JVs 8 p.m.).
The matchup at Parkston looms large so far as potential tournament home-field advantage is concerned. Through Monday of this week VHS had the best record in Region 1’s Eastern Division, and Parkston was best in Region 1W at 4-1, its only loss so far coming at the hands of Bon Homme/Scotland.