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Stars prevail at first ever Rushmore Classic


Post 22 Hardhat pitcher Brian Atkinson at the 2022 Firecracker (Photo by Michele Davies)

RAPID CITY—It has been a challenging couple of weeks for local Legion baseball teams. The Rapid City Post 22 Hardhats hosted the 47th Annual Firecracker Tournament over the holiday weekend, and Rapid City Post 320 Stars hosted their first annual Rushmore Classic Tournament.

The Stars started their tournament with wins over Spearfish, Sturgis and Belle Fourche. They then went 3-3 on a Minnesota road trip. Their last game was a 12-6 loss to the Hutch Sr Legion. Hutch took a 4-0 lead, but the Stars scored six runs in the bottom of the fourth. Doubles by Gavyn Dansby and Ryan Rufledt, and singles by Walker Vliestra and Noah Poken, highlighted the rally. However, Rapid City pitching gave up eight runs over the next three innings to lose the game. Overall the Stars are 28-15, and sitting about where they usually are before post season play gets underway at the end of next week.

The Hardhats opened the Firecracker with four straight losses. They rebounded with a 2-0 win over Terre Haute, Indiana, and a 10-0 win over Premier West Colorado, who had earlier beaten the Hardhats, 7-2, to open Firecracker play. Following the Firecracker, Post 22 drove up to Pierre, where they lost 3-0. Two days later they were up in Minnesota for the Gopher Classic. They opened play by beating the Edina Hornets, 8-6. Lefty Lee Neugebauer got the win for Rapid City. A double by Wyatt Anderson, and two singles from Harrision Good and Dylon Marsh in the fourth inning earned the win for Post 22.

Rapid City eked by the East Ridge Raptors in the next game, 8-7. Wyatt Anderson was the hero, driving in the winning run with a single in the bottom of the final inning. Eli Kelley was the winning pitcher. The next game would be a tough 1-0 loss to the Bemidji Lumberjacks. Anderson took the loss for Rapid City but it was a seriously quality start, as he recorded 18 outs, gave up only one run, struck out five, and walked but two.

Pappilion-LaVista South Titans fell to Post 22 in the next game, 7-3. Palmer Jacobs got the win for Rapid City He allowed but two hits, and no runs. Peyton Tipton pitched three innings of relief, and Head Coach Kelvin Torve has found a way to maximize the contributions of his hard hitting infielder. One thing Tipton has is a strong arm. The big story of the game were the three homeruns the Hardhats blasted, from Harrison Good, Jake Solano, and Dylon Marsh, who may be the smallest player on the Hardhats, but his bat spoke big in the sixth inning.

The Post 22 regular season draws to a close this weekend with a double doubleheader against Sioux Falls East and Sioux Falls West. Play begins on Friday evening at 5 pm versus Sioux Falls East.

The Hardhats are now 34-22, and rated number two in the state behind Brandon Valley Post 131, a team they will not play in the regular season. Because they play high school ball, Brandon Valley got a late start to the Legion season and sport a 25-10 record. They also went to Minnesota where they went 3-4, their last game a 14-6 loss to the Shakopee Sr Legion. Brandon Valley closes out their season against the Harrisburg Tigers and Pierre Post 8.

The 15 U Rapid City Post 22 Bullets continue to be the toughest team in the state in a relative sense. They rebounded from consecutive defeats, for four straight wins, including a 10-1 win over cross parking lot rival, Post 320. Overall the Bullets are 41-4 and the favorites to win the state title, but Head Coach Jace Caldwell will certainly not be counting his chickens before they hatch. One thing the Bullets know how to do is grind every game out. They know how to fight.

The Sturgis Post 33 Titans are 11-18, and they have the 16 spot in the state Class A playoff rankings. However, because the host team is always given a first round bye, Sturgis will not make the playoffs unless they can climb one notch in the standings. They are currently at 11-18 and have lost their last two games, the last a 5-4 loss to the Rapid City Post 320 Stars. David Anderson is a powerful left handed pull hitter that leads a lineup that has the ability to upset any team if they can get some help on the mound.

One of the best Class B teams in the state is Spearfish Post 164, although their modest 12-31 record does not reflect that. Spearfish takes most of their lumps from Class A teams, so the record is deceiving. They have the toughest schedule of any Class B team, playing eight games against tough teams like Gillette and Post 22.

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

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