At this time last year, no one could have been sure of what was to become of the Rapid City sports scene in the next 365 days.

From turnover at the most established sports institutions in town, the death of an icon and the smattering of championships and success, 2017 seemed to have it all in Western South Dakota.

The story that seemed to stop everyone in their tracks the most, however, wasn’t a loss on the field, but a loss in the community.

Former Rapid City Post 22 manager Dave Ploof passed away on May 25 at 80-years-old, and it brought back countless memories for many Rapid City baseball fans.

Ploof retired from Post 22 in 2011 after 47 seasons at the helm of the Hardhat program. During that time, he went 2,011-808, making him the winningest coach in the history of American Legion baseball.

He also won 34 South Dakota state titles and advanced to the American Legion World Series eight times, the most famous of which came in 1993. Post 22 went 70-5 that year winning the World Series and bringing a national title to Rapid City.

“We’re talking about a man who transformed baseball in this town and transformed hundreds of lives,” Post 22 manager at the time Mitch Messer said. “There is only one Dave Ploof. We should all be celebrating his life and his time here in Rapid City, and not only what he did for our city, but for Post 22 baseball.”

Messer would be making headlines himself later in the year, as on Oct. 9 he stepped down as manager of Post 22 to take a position as vice president of operations for the new summer wooden bat league headquartered in Rapid City, the Expedition League.

In late November, Messer's replacement was announced as former Hardhat and major leaguer Kelvin Torve. The former Post 22 player, college star and Major Leaguer came home two years ago to help with the program, first as the coach of the Cadets (14-under) and then with the Bullets, the third level of the program.

The headlines weren't only dominated by coaches changing over in Rapid City, here is a look at some of the biggest stories month-by-month that made 2017 unique:

January: Infamous Hanson Brothers visit Rushmore Plaza Civic Center

In the cold of January, some laughter found its way to the Civic Center, as the stars of the 1977 film "Slap Shot" made an appearance at the Rapid City Rush's game against the Colorado Eagles Jan. 21.

The trio put on a performance during the first intermission, and to hockey fans from a rougher era is was a nice trip down memory lane.

“When you talk hockey movies, Slap Shot is the first one that pops up on everybody’s mind,” said Joe Ferras, general manager of the Rush at the time. “You see it on TV all the time and there isn’t a hockey player who hasn’t watched the movie."

February: State wrestling champs crowned

Although no one could get the best of Pierre in Class A, six local wrestlers came home from Sioux Falls in late February with Class A state titles this year.

Sturgis had two, with Jacob Wood winning the 106-pound title and Bailey Brengle winning at 145. Timmy Paris won the 220-pound title for Rapid City Central, Spencer Stockman won at 126 for Rapid City Stevens and Tyler Waterson of Spearfish brought the 138 title back to the Black Hills.

In Class B, Tre'zen Doren of Winner Area was the lone western South Dakota champion at 285.

March: Four on the floor for St. Thomas More

It has become a common identifier over the past four years for the St. Thomas More girls' basketball program, and last March it was true again.

Champions.

The Cavaliers rolled by Lennox for their fourth straight Class A championship 47-36 in March. A special moment came when star guard and University of Utah commit Dru Gylten, who had was hurt in the second day of the tournament, checked in during the game's final seconds and hold the ball as the clock expired on her senior season.

April: Rush clean house

After a season where Rapid City finished 26-38-8-0, last in the mountain division, it fired head coach Mark DeSantis in his second season at the helm.

DeSantis was the second coach in franchise history. He finished with a record of 38-47-11 in 96 games after replacing Joe Ferras on Feb. 17, 2016.

May: West River track stars show out

Aside from the passing of Ploof, the biggest story in May was the success of local track and field athletes at the state meet in Sioux Falls.

The STM girls tied with Madison for the girls' team Class A title, which also featured a strong performance from Belle Fourche's Shayla Howell. Howell won the 100 and 200-meter title as well as the long and triple jump.

As for Class AA, both the Stevens boys' and girls' teams had strong showings. Elizabeth Schaefer won the 100 hurdles and the relay team of Lily Parris, Kyah Watson, Jacey Sawyer and Sophie Hartford won the 4x100 relay and set a state record in the process. Jacob Martin was also a surprise winner in the boys' high jump.

Briana Philipsen of New Underwood defended her 100 hurdles crown while STM's Jake Aanderund won the boys' 100. 

Cooper West of Philip won the Class B boys' pole vault, Sage Hagen of Central won the Class AA boys' triple jump,  

Other West River boys' athletes earning the top step on the medal podium included Daniel Burkhalter of Bison, who added the Class B 1,600 title to a 3,200 win on Friday and Custer junior Reed Ashmore in the Class A discus.

Girls’ winners included Newell junior Delaney Leber in the Class B 1,600, New Underwood 8th-grader Cerington Jones in Class B long jump and Todd County 8th-grader Caelyn Valandra-Prue in the Class A 400.

Other relay winners included STM, winning its fifth consecutive Class A girls 4x200 and New Underwood defending its title in the Class B 4x400.

June: More changes for the Rush

In a busy offseason, June might have been the busiest for Rapid City. The Rush announced June 8 that former player and assistant coach during the 2016-17 season Daniel Tetrault would be the new head coach and the third in franchise history.

A few weeks later the Rush made another announcement, saying it would change it's NHL affiliation from the Arizona Coyotes to the Minnesota Wild.

July: Disappointing end to the baseball season

With the 2017 South Dakota American Legion Baseball Class A state tournament coming to Floyd Fitzgerald Stadium last July, the talk all baseball season was the potential of a all Rapid City final. It didn't happen that way.

Rapid City Post 320, despite being ranked No. 2 in the state for most of the season, failed to qualify for state after dropping two games in the 3A regional, 10-6 to Pierre Post 8 and 9-6 to Mitchell Post 18.

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Mitchell and Pierre would go on to play for the state title, after Rapid City Post 22 couldn't extend its streak of fourth straight state titles when it was eliminated with losses to both Pierre and Mitchell in the state tournament.

August: More baseball changes

South Dakota was represented in the Little League World Series in August, it just wasn't by a program from Rapid City.

Sioux Falls Little League had rolled through the North/South Dakota District tournament at the Rushmore Little League complex in July, and in August it went to Indianapolis and advanced to the LLWS after a 6-0 win over Webb City, Missouri.

In Rapid City, Post 320 had a shakeup when it let manager Paul Pool go after six seasons. 

September: New coaches and state title chases

As the calendar turned along with the colors on the leaves, fall sports was in full swing during September.

The biggest accomplishment came from the STM soccer program, who sent both the boys' and girls' teams to the Class A state title game Sept. 30. The boys faced Tea Area while the girls took on West Central.

Baseball still couldn't leave the headlines in September, as Post 320 hired long-time Dave Ploof assistant coach at Post 22 Rich Downs as its head coach early in Sept.

October: 10 years of the Rush

Although the month started with STM boys' and girls' dropping state title matches (boys 5-0 to Tea Area, girls 1-0 to West Central) it was still a special month for sports fans, especially Rush fans.

When the puck dropped Oct. 13 against the Allen Americans, it was the 10th season opener for the Rush. Allen spoiled the night for Rapid City, however, with a 8-3 win.

November: Gregory's football dominance continues

November started on the same note it started last season for the Gregory Gorillas.

A trip to the DakotaDome, and a state title win.

Gregory won its second straight Class 9AA state title with a 56-30 win over Irene-Wakonda Nov. 9.

December: Thrilling boys' final concludes Lakota Nation Invitational

In what was a classic boys' LNI final. White River beat Crow Creek in overtime 73-69.

Crow Creek did, however, not go home empty-handed. The Lady Chieftains topped Pine Ridge 66-49 to win the girls' LNI title. It was the second straight season Pine Ridge fell in the title game of the LNI.

Contact Geoff Preston at geoffrey.preston@rapidcityjournal.com

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Sports Reporter

Sports reporter for the Rapid City Journal.