DICKINSON, N.D. — When you beat out Rapid City Post 22 for a trip to the American Legion regionals a lot is expected of you, and the overachievers at Pierre Post 8 tried to deliver just that, beating Ham Lake, Minnesota, 15-5 in the opening game.
The boys from Pierre are big, and they play hard, but Johnston, Iowa, handed them a 9-2 loss in the second game. Pierre rebounded with a 5-2 win over Tri-City Red, Minnesota. That set up the elimination game with Creighton Prep out of Omaha, which Pierre lost, 13-7, ending their championship hopes.
Pierre had dominated in the state tournament at Rapid City, until the final game, when they squandered a huge lead, and had to defeat Mitchell Post 18 in extra innings. That sent them north, with a sense of relief, and having not played for anything at this level since 1968, they gave Ham Lake both barrels in the opening game, winning 15-5.
Centerfielder Landon Badger, a 2016 Pierre Riggs graduate, provided the firepower, driving in four, courtesy of a single and two triples. Peyton Zabel pitched a three-hitter for seven innings for the win, giving up two runs and striking out four. He had some relief from the bullpen, Austin Hoss threw 1.1 innings and lefty Maguire Raske got one out.
The game was decided in the top of the sixth inning. Garrett Stout homered to right field. After Zach Rabern struck out swinging, Raske drew a walk. Connor Gerber then struck out looking, which brought up Brad Dean, and he delivered a bounding single to centerfield, which plated Raske. Badger then tripled to centerfield, which scored Dean, giving Pierre a 6-1 lead, and all the runs they would need to secure the win.
Johnston, Iowa, would prove a different story in game two. The eventual winning run was scored in the bottom of the first. Evan Salmon singled to centerfield for Johnston. Peyton Williams singled a line drive to right field, advancing Salmon to second. Andrew Nord loaded the bases with a single to third base. Garrett Stout struck out Derek Hackman. DH Noah Janssen sent a ground ball into right field, scoring Salmon, bases still loaded. Sean Meyer ripped a ground ball so hard second baseman Austin Hoss struggled to handle it, and Nord and Williams both scored, Janssen advanced to second. Nathan Buckallew flied out to right field. That made it 3- 0, and that was all the runs Johnston would need. Adam Stiles got the win, Stout took the loss.
Rebounding against Tri- City Red, Minnesota came next. Pierre prevailed 5-2, although Tri-City took the early lead in the bottom of the first, 1-0. A four-running fifth inning gave Pierre the lead for good. Gerber drove in one run, Badger drove in two, and the final run came from an error. Brad Dean threw 6.1 innings for the win. He allowed two runs, seven hits and struck out three.
On Saturday, Pierre had their chances against Creighton Prep, before eventually falling 13-7. An eight run third inning doomed Pierre, as Raske got hammered on the mound. Creighton Prep had 14 hits and Pierre had ten, and so neither pitching staff handled the bats of the other team well.
Pierre’s first trip to the playoffs in almost fifty years certainly makes this season one to remember. But Post 22’s 50-win season, and regular season defeats of Pierre, make their performance at the state tournament hard to forget. It was very un-Post 22-like to fold when it mattered most, because they had the heart of the order up, down only one run to Mitchell and failed to produce. Earlier in that game, they had ducks on the pond and one out and failed to score. Even a franchise with the storied history of Post 22 will have its bad years, but this was a good year, if not for the listless performance at the state tournament.
(James Giago Davies is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota Tribe. He can be reached at email@example.com)