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Post 22 loses all four shots at a state title

1542: As a team, Post 22 played flat at state and were eliminated, but they automatically qualified for the regionals by being host. They have the talent to win if they can get back their focus. (Photo by Michele Davies)

SIOUX FALLS—Rapid City Post 22 had four legitimate shots at a state tile but came up short in all four tournaments. In the 18U state tournament held in Yankton, things looked very promising. Post 22 was the defending state champion, had defeated the number 18 ranked team in the country at the Firecracker, but unlike last year’s champion, they were unable to rebound from an early loss and take the title.

Still, because they are hosting the Upper Midwest regional starting this Wednesday, the Hardhats did not have to win the state tournament to qualify. They, along with current state champion, Harrisburg Gold, and six other teams, one from North Dakota, two from Minnesota, one from Iowa, and two from Nebraska, will square off for the right to advance to the National Finals in North Carolina. This means three of the five teams have advanced to the tournament in Rapid city after a loss.

“We have a unique opportunity to have a special year,” Post 22 Head Coach Kelvin Torve told NSNT. “The State Tournament didn’t go as we wanted, but if we come out and compete, which we have done most of the year, we can compete with anybody.”

There really isn’t much else a coach can say given the performance the Hardhats put out at Yankton. In the opening game against Brookings, they repeatedly put runners on the bags in the opening innings but for one reason or another failed to get a run home. Brookings only scored one run early on, but in the end, one run would prove the difference, as they scored the winning run in the bottom of the final inning to prevail, 5-4 over Rapid City. It looked inevitable that the Hardhats would win, despite all the runners left on base, as they put up four runs in the top of the sixth to lead, 4-1. But in the bottom, Brookings put up three of their own, and after Post 22 failed to produce the go ahead run in the top of the seventh, Brookings produced the winning run in the bottom.

Luckily, the Hardhats were facing Harrisburg Maroon in the first elimination game, and Harrisburg Maroon was by far the weakest team at Yankton, courtesy of a huge upset win over Rapid City Post 320 in the qualifying series. The Hardhats won easily, 14-4. It seemed that the stage was set for a repeat of last year, when the Hardhats, back to the wall, just got stronger every game. Up next, was the host, Yankton Post 12, and it would be a story of too little too late as Yankton eliminated Post 22, 6-2. The Hardhat bats just couldn’t put anything together, and only shortstop Wilson Kieffer, batting in the ninth spot, managed two hits. The big bats in the middle: Harrison Good, Alex Dietrich, Hayden Holec and Ridge Inhofer, didn’t produce a single hit.

The Hardhats are presently 47-22. Still alive in the post season and wanting desperately to make up for the flop at state by making some noise as the regional host.

Looking at the stats, Willis Reeder still leads the Hardhats with a .402 average, and an on base plus slugging total of 1.019. Harrison Good’s .375 is second for average and he leads the team in slugging at .551. He also has scored the most runs, 59. Good has a whopping 11 sacrifice flys. The RBI king is Hayden Holec, batting only .288, but having driven in 62. The ablest bunter is Dominic McKnight with six sacrifices. As a team Post 22 is batting .305

The top pitcher for Post 22 has been Eli Kelley, a 1.16 ERA, and an impressive WHIP of .971. Harrison Good was a huge postseason force on the mound last year but has not proven such this season. Pitching has been the problem for Post 22 and it will be under even greater pressure against the field starting this Wednesday. If that pitching bears down, and if the bats come alive, the Hardhats can send any team to the dugout with long faces.

Although the other three Post 22 teams did better, all making their respective finals, they all lost. At 59-12, the 17U Expos had a fine season, but having lost their best pitchers to the Hardhats, their potent bats were not enough to stop the Sioux Falls Post 15 East Junior Legion, and the Expos lost, 14-7. Showing what they could do, they put it all together in the next two games, defeating Yankton, 9-1, and then Brookings, 10-1. That earned them a spot in the final game against Watertown. Watertown scored first when McCoy Ribbentrop plunked Markus Pitkin, forcing in a run. No one knew then that was the winning run, as Watertown won the title by a score of 1-0.

The 16U Bullets sported the best Post 22 record at 44-6. The Bullets beat Watertown in dramatic fashion in the first game. After seven scheduled innings the game was tied, 1-1. Watertown scored two runs in the top of the eighth, to take a 3-1 lead. In the bottom of the eighth, Post 22 came back with four runs and won the game when Easton Tesch doubled to right plating Riley Scott. Next up was game but overmatched Harrisburg Maroon, and they fell, 10-0. That meant battling the Yankton White Sox for the title, and this was just a see-ball-hit-ball kind of game where the winner was determined by being the first team to be able to stop a major rally. When the Bullets loaded the bases and didn’t score a run in the bottom of the sixth, Yankton took home the title, 9-7.

The 14U Cadets we save for last, but not because they should be last. These little guys play exciting baseball and fans should really come out to their games. They opened their tournament by out-slugging Brandon Valley, 15-8. Aberdeen gave them a tougher tussle, but the Cadets prevailed, 6-3. Next, Renner Post 307 was hammered 21-4, and that meant the final v Sioux Falls Post 15, which the Cadets lost, 10-5.

In all cases, from the Cadets to the Hardhats, Post 22 did not save their best for last. It didn’t seem likely given the quality of all four programs, that they would come home with no titles. It is up to the Post 22 Hardhats to now play giant killers at their Regional. The Hardhats have a flair for digging down deep and manufacturing huge upsets in dramatic fashion when performing before the home crowd.

(Contact James Giago Davies at skindiesel@msn.com)


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