By Caleb Miller
The season is officially over for Vermillion baseball as the 15/16 Teeners wrapped up with a third-place finish at the state tournament in Harrisburg last weekend.
The Teeners were the third Vermillion squad to place in the top three at state, capping a year of unprecedented dominance for Vermillion baseball. After defeating Volga 4-2 in the opening round of the tournament, Vermillion fell to Tabor 7-2 in the semifinal, but the Teeners rebounded to win the third place game 4-3 over Humboldt.
This team’s run marks the fourth consecutive year the 15/16 Teener team from Vermillion has advanced to the state tournament. Past teams took 6th place in 2010, 1st in 2011, and 6th in 2012.
Vermillion, 4 – Volga, 2
The opening round game was a crucial one as the winner is guaranteed a top four finish while the loser falls to fifth-eighth place. Vermillion sent its ace Jake Odens to the mound.
Both teams pushed a run across in the first inning, Vermillion doing the job without the help of a hit. Odens walked to lead off the inning and took second on a passed ball. Joe Miller then sacrifice bunted Odens over to third, allowing Jack Brown to bounce an RBI ground out to the shortstop. Vermillion offense backed Odens with three more runs in the next two innings, clinging to a 4-2 lead after four innings.
In order to allow Odens to pitch in game three, Vermillion pulled the hurler after four innings, and gave the ball to Carter Kratz, a 14-year-old who played most of the year with the younger Teener team. Kratz youth did not show as he came in and shut the door. Volga tested Kratz by putting runners on second and third with no outs in the fifth. But Kratz struck one man out, then caught a line drive and doubled off the runner at second to end the inning with no damage done.
Good defense and solid pitching held the score at 4-2 for the rest of the contest, sending Vermillion to the winner’s bracket.
Vermillion, 2 – Tabor, 7
The second round looked like a David vs. Goliath matchup as Tabor had trounced Vermillion 16-1 and 9-2 during the regular season. But the Vermillion Teeners would not let that derail their playoff momentum. Ethan James started the game on the hill and pitched a gem, holding the powerful Tabor offense to three earned runs in over six innings of work.
After Tabor took an early 2-0 lead, Vermillion knotted the game up with RBI grounds by Joe Miller and Jack Brown. The score remained tied until the last inning. Vermillion was one out away from silencing Tabor for yet another inning, but some two out hits and two Vermillion errors allowed Tabor to push across five runs.
To many spectators, this contest looked like the state championship game instead of the semifinal. The winner was sent to meet Groton in the championship and both Vermillion and Tabor had defeated Groton during the year. Vermillion’s valiant effort left them just short of winning the semifinal and possibly going on to winning the whole thing.
Vermillion, 4 – Humboldt, 3
Some hangover from the emotional semifinal game caused Vermillion to sputter in the opening inning of the third place game. Humboldt jumped on pitcher Odens for three runs in the top of the first, and Vermillion looked to be in for a long day. But just as they have done all year, Vermillion rallied. Regan Bye got the Vermillion offense started with an RBI single, plating Travis Weber in the bottom of the second. Vermillion pushed across another run in the inning, cutting the lead to 3-2 after two.
Good pitching by both teams kept the score 3-2 from the second to the seventh inning. Odens pitched the whole game for Vermillion, settling down from the rough first to throw a great game. The Teeners were trailing by a run going into the season’s final three outs, but the boys from Vermillion had a little magic left.
Jake Oden led off the inning with a single to ignite the rally. Joe Miller was charged to bunt Odens to second, but he did more than that, beating out a well-placed bunt for a single of his own.
With runners at first and second and no outs, Jack Brown was hit by a pitch load the bases.
After Weber struck out, James came to the plate looking to tie the game. An errant fastball drilled James in the shoulder, granting him first base and tying the game with still only one out in the inning.
With Miller standing at third as the winning run, the stage was set for Regan Bye to play hero. Bye crushed the first pitch he saw over the right fielders head, easily driving in Miller and winning the game in walk-off fashion.
The walk-off put an exclamation point on an impressive season for the 15/16 Teeners. A playoff record of 6-1 and a third-place trophy were among the year’s accolades for the group coached by TJ Beacom.