By Parker Knox
Vermillion had a 23-game winning streak against fellow Class “B” baseball teams snapped last Friday, but the Tanagers started a new victory string Tuesday in the first round of the 2013 regional tournament.
They will be perfectly content with only five in a row this time. That would mean a repeat of their state “B” tournament title.
The Tanagers had had a couple of shaky outings in the past three weeks, even though they won all but one of them, but this victory left no doubt. What’s next? A second-round tournament game at home against Bon Homme-Scotland, probably tonight (Friday) at 6 p.m. The winner of that one goes into the Region 1B championship contest early next week, but the opponent and the site won’t be known until tonight’s second round is over.
Tuesday’s 10-0 five-inning triumph over Dakota Valley at Prentis Park saw a return of Tanager baseball as we have come to know it – pitching superbly, playing solid defense, putting the ball into play to force the other team to make outs, running the opposition ragged on the basepaths, and, above all, making them pay dearly for every mistake.
Vermillion whacked out 10 hits, some of which never left the infield but were turned into hits by Tanager speed. The winners stole six bases and also benefited from the Panthers’ giving mood – seven walks, two hit batsmen, four wild pitches and four errors. All of those gifts can cause a lot of damage, and on this night they did.
Meanwhile, Collin Bertram faced only 16 batters in five innings, allowing two hits, no runs and one walk while striking out one. Dakota Valley had only four baserunners. The first singled but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double on a strong peg from first-baseman Seth Heine to second base. The second walked but was forced at second base on an inning-ending infield grounder to second-baseman Pete Haught, who handled five fielding chances flawlessly. The third baserunner was the man who hit that ball that ended the inning.
The last Panther to reach base did so only because his Texas Leaguer into center field dropped just in front of a sprinting, diving Colin Olson in center field. The next batter also hit a fly to Olson. Bad decision! Olson caught that fly and easily doubled off the original baserunner at first base. Just to make that inning complete. the Panthers were retired when third-baseman Tanner Anderson slid into foul territory and made a circus basket catch of a fast-dying foul ball from the seat of his pants.
Outfield flies to Jack Brown and Olson in the fifth left the Panthers, trailing by 10 runs, with only one out remaining. On a sharp grounder to his left, Anderson at third made a difficult stop of the ball look easy and fired a strike to first base to end the Dakota Valley season.
Bertram, the VHS leadoff man, singled in the first, reached third base when DV pitcher Isaac Faldmo fired wildly in a failed pickoff try at first, and scored on Jayce Huska’s sacrifice fly. Anderson reached base on another infield error, and after a hit batter and Haught’s infield hit, Anderson scored when Joe Mazour was conked with a pitch, forcing in a run.
Jack Brown’s double ignited a four-run second. An error followed, and when Tanner Settles laid down a beauty of a bunt to sacrifice the runners along, he beat it out for a hit. Faldmo’s wild pitch let in a Tanager run. Huska singled, and although one runner was thrown out at the plate, Anderson came through with the game-breaking hit, a single that scored a pair. He later scored on Olson’s sacrifice fly.
VHS padded its lead with two in the third. Mazour walked, stole second and scored on two wild pitches by reliever Andrew Prochello. Jack Brown walked, was wild-pitched around and scored on the second of Bertram’s three hits.
Needing two runs to end the game by the mercy rule in the fifth, Bertram and Settles led off with hits. A wild pitch made it 9-0. When Huska walked, Anderson was then intentionally walked by Dakota Valley, hoping for a double play and a miracle to keep the tenth run from crossing the plate, but Olson hit a screaming line drive off pitcher Jacob Bellis’ body. The ball caromed toward third base, and by the time it was picked up, the run had scored, and the game was over.
Every Tanager batter reached base at least once. Bertram, Olson and Anderson had two RBIs each and Mazour one.
If ever there were a game to be quickly put in the past, if possible, it was the Tanagers’ regular-season finale at Beresford last Friday. A 14-3 defeat at the hands of Beresford-Centerville was Vermillion’s first loss to a Class “B” team in two years. The last time VHS lost to a “B” school was in tournament play at the end of the 2011 season when Beresford edged Vermillion, 7-6.
When Collin Bertram led off the game with a ringing double into the right-field corner, who could have possibly imagined that, by the time the Tanagers would get their next basehit, they would be trailing by a 14-0 score!
Bertram’s two-bagger was the only hit allowed by starter Caleb Johnke until Joe Mazour led off the fifth with a single. After Johnke walked the next batter, he was relieved by Logan Hunter, who finished the inning and the game. The Tanagers did score three times but still trailed 14-3, putting the 10-run mercy rule into effect when their third out was made. Bertram’s second hit of the day ended the shutout, Tanner Settles got an RBI when he was hit with a pitch while the bases were loaded, and Jayce Huska drove in the third run with a sacrifice fly.
Meanwhile, Beresford-Centerville scored one in the first, eight in the second, one in the third and four in the fourth as four Tanager pitchers tried pretty much in vain to find home plate with any consistency. The Tanagers committed one costly error in each of the first three innings that helped prolong the winners’ innings. But at the same time, Colin Olson allowed three hits, five runs and three walks while fanning two; Jake Odens allowed five hits, five runs and two walks; Seth Heine gave up two hits and two runs while striking out one, and Huska walked one and gave up three hits and two runs, striking out one. Olson was tagged with the loss, his first of the season, and Johnke got the victory.
Chris Kropeunske and Logan Busch had three hits each for the winners among their 13 hits. Oliver Doeden had four RBIs and Kropuenske three.
Beresford-Centerville apparently used up its quota of hits and runs, however. They were shut out at the hands of Bon Homme-Scotland in their first-round regional game early this week, 9-0.