By Caleb Miller
It was almost midnight on Thursday night when first baseman Hunter Christopherson caught the ball with his foot on the bag, securing the final out and clinching the region title game for the 13-14 Vermillion Teener Red’s 6-3 over Dakota Valley in Irene. Fast forward 24 hours and 20 miles down the road where first baseman Collin Bertram camped under an infield pop-up, snatching it for the final out as Post 1 Vermillion captured its own region title 6-3 over Beresford. In a wild three days, two Vermillion squads repeated as champions of their respective region tournaments and earned bids to play for all the marbles in state tournaments this weekend.
Each team started Wednesday with crucial games, Post 1 needing a win against Dakota Valley in the first round of the tournament to avoid falling into the loser’s bracket early and the Teener Reds—who had lost a game the night before—needing a win over Beresford to keep them from being eliminated altogether. Post 1 trounced Dakota Valley 16-1 in game one and played Lennox later that night, outlasting the Orioles 4-0 behind pitcher Collin Bertram. The Teener Reds handled Beresford with little trouble, taking the contest 14-3.
1 p.m., Post 1, 16 – Dakota Valley, 1
Post 1 played the early, 1 pm game and wasted no time flexing their offensive might. Jayce Huska singled and scored in the first inning to take the early lead. Then Tanner Settles doubled, Nathan Garrett tripled, and Chayse Meierkort singled in the top of the second, leading to three more runs. The floodgates opened in the fourth when Post 1 plated five more runs behinds singles from Meierkort, Garrett, and Bertram and a double from Joe Mazour.
The Vermillion lineup would go on to score seven more runs, causing the game to be decided by the mercy rule after five innings. Garrett had a monster day at the plate, tallying three hits, two triples, four RBI’s, and three runs scored. Colin Olson earned the win with four scoreless innings on the mound.
6 p.m., Vermillion Reds, 14 – Beresfor,d 3
Cole Anderson took the mound for the Reds in the crucial Wednesday night matchup. Beresford played the Reds to an extra inning game in the first round of the tournament, but the Vermillion bats would not let the game get that far this time. A two-out RBI double by Billy Mount gave the Reds the 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but Beresford answered with a run in the bottom half of the inning.
Singles by Cameron Olson and Nate Robertson opened up a three-run second for the Reds. Cole Anderson helped his own cause in this inning with an RBI double. After three doubles in the top of the third by Christopherson, Olson, and Riley Peters, the Reds broke the game open 7-1 after three.
Anderson was relieved after three innings, and Parker Goblirsch finished the game to earn the save. The Vermillion offense never slowed as they scored in all five innings of the game shortened by the mercy rule. The 4-5-6 batters in the lineup (Mount, Christopherson, Olson) contributed much of the damage, going a combined 9 for 12 and scored seven runs.
7 p.m., Post 1, 4 – Lennox, 0
Post 1 had little time to enjoy the first round win as they were back in action that night against a fresh Lennox team with its ace Jared Fodness. But Vermillion had a weapon of its own in pitcher Collin Bertram. For most pitchers, a performance such as Bertram’s Wednesday night would be the game of a lifetime. However, this is a type of mastery Vermillion fans have seen many times from the talented lefty.
Bertram pitched all nine innings, struck out eight and allowed no runs. Bertram had five 1-2-3 innings, used 94 total pitches, never more than 14 in any one inning.
Fodness did his best to keep up with Bertram, working out of bases-loaded jams in the third and fifth, but Post 1 got all they would need in the bottom of the fourth.
Joe Mazour led off with a single followed by a bunt single for Settles. Peter Haught bounced one at the third baseman whose throw to first sailed his teammate, allowing Mazour to score. Back-to-back RBI groundouts from Nile Morecraft and Garrett scored Settles and Haught to give Vermillion the 3-0 advantage. The lead was plenty, and Bertram retired the last nine batters of the game to send Post 1 to the semifinal.
With Thursday came championship baseball for the Reds and a semifinal matchup for Post 1. Post 1 played an afternoon contest with Beresford while the Reds had to beat Dakota Valley twice back-to-back to capture the crown. The juggernaut Vermillion offense returned to form as they dismissed Beresford 14-4 in eight innings. The Reds mauled Dakota Valley in game one then edged them 6-3 with the trophy on the line in game two.
4 p.m., Post 1, 14 – Beresford, 4
Beresford gave Vermillion an early scare as they managed to load the bases in the second for Logan Hunter, who delivered a bases-clearing double. But the lead would not stand for long as Vermillion broke the game open with a nine-run fifth.
Jayce Huska had a single, a triple, an RBI, and two runs scored in just that inning! He ended the day an astounding five for five with a walk, four runs scored and four batted in. After Nile Morecraft had some early elbow pain and was removed in the second, Nate Garrett entered the game for Vermillion and closed the door. Garrett gave up just three hits and an unearned run in over six innings of relief.
6 p.m., Vermillion Reds, 9 – Dakota Valley, 1
The Vermillion ace Billy Mount took the hill for game one, as the Teeners needed a win to force a decisive game two. The Reds offense picked up where it left off the night before. They batted through the lineup in the top of the first, scoring four runs and giving Mount a comfortable lead. The Reds added two runs in the second and three more in the top of the third to take a commanding 9-1 lead.
The lead allowed Vermillion to apply strategy, pulling Mount after just two innings so that he could pitch in game two of the double header. Kyle Johnson finished off Dakota Valley, holding them in check for three innings while his offense continued to push the lead. Cole Anderson was the offensive star for the Reds, mashing two balls to the fence for extra base hits.
The game was over after just five innings because of the mercy rule and the teams returned to their dugouts to regroup for a second game, this time the tourney crown at stake.
8 p.m., Vermillion Reds, 6 – Dakota Valley, 3
Mount returned to the mound for game two, which proved to be a much closer game. Dakota Valley countered Mount with its own ace Austin Carter, and the two clashed for five innings in an old-fashioned pitcher’s duel. The top of the Vermillion lineup managed to put five runs on Carter through the first five innings as Kratz and Mount each had RBI hits.
Because he pitched two innings earlier in the day, Mount was forced to come out of the game after five innings, leading 5-1. Cole Anderson came into the game, looking to record the last six outs and earn the save.
Tension built in Anderson’s first inning of relief as Dakota Valley pushed across two runs and loaded the bases with one out, the score 5-3. Then came the biggest play in the game.
A curveball from Anderson induced a bouncing ball at second baseman Riley Johnson. The play looked routine until the ball took a hop off a clump of grass and shot high in the air. As fans held their breath, Johnson snared the high hop and flipped to Kratz at second, who expertly tagged the base and fired to first, nabbing the runner by a hair. The double play ended the inning and Dakota Valley’s hopes at a comeback.
Anderson allowed the tying run to reach base with two out in the bottom of the seventh but jammed up the final batter, causing him to hit a slow roller to Mount at third, who fired to first to end the game. The Reds were victorious.
With one trophy firmly in Vermillion hands, it was up to the Legion squad to earn its own Friday night. Beresford won its way back into the championship game, but needed to beat Post 1 twice in order to win it all. Vermillion wouldn’t let it get to a second game, ousting the home team 6-3 to repeat as champs.
7 p.m., Post 1, 6 – Beresford, 3
Colin Olson returned to the mound and turned in another solid effort. The top of the first got off to a strong start as Tanner Anderson walked to lead off the game, took second and third on a wild pitch and passed ball, then scored when Meierkort blooped a ball into right field.
The 1-0 advantage held until the fifth when Nate Garrett led off the inning with a double and Anderson proceeded to single him home. After Anderson swiped second, Huska drove him in with a single of his own. Bertram later doubled, and both Huska and Bertram scored on a misplayed groundball by the Beresford shortstop.
Beresford catcher Derek Wiebers launched a homerun in the sixth in their attempt to crawl back into the game, but Olson contained the Beresford lineup for seven innings. After consecutive walks in the eighth, Olson’s night was done and Garrett came in for the five-out save. Fourteen pitches and five outs later, Post 1 was standing atop Region 3 for the second time in as many years and Vermillion had its second region champion in as many days.
The wildly successful week that culminated in two championships is just the beginning for these two squads as both with compete for a state title this weekend.
Post 1 travels to Webster for the tournament, and opens at 12 p.m. on Friday against McCook/Miner County. Some revenge is on the line for Post 1 as McCook defeated Vermillion last year, eliminating them from the tournament. The Teener Reds host the state tournament at Prentis Park, opening their play with an 8 p.m. matchup against Crooks Friday night.