At Rapid City Post 320's baseball practice Tuesday morning, it was hard to tell that the Stars' season would be decided in the upcoming week.
The mood was light, the players were loose with the South Dakota American Legion Region 3A tournament starting in Mitchell today.
The Stars begin the tournament with Sturgis Post 33 at 4 p.m.
Post 320 pitcher and shortstop Brett Beyer said that's the way it's been all season.
"They’re always loose, that’s just this group of guys. They’re just a bunch of goofy goobers," Beyer said. "They don’t have a tense bone in their body, which is fun. They’re fun to be around."
Added pressure doesn't seem to exist in the hearts and minds of Post 320. The Stars are 32-13 and have been ranked No. 2 in the state for the majority of the season.
Still, they know what they have to do now that the regional tournament is here.
"We know every team this side of the state can compete, they all have pitching. You can’t look past any team no matter what," Post 320's Connor Burgess said. "You have to go out and play your hardest, you can’t take it soft on anybody. We’ve been playing fine all year ranked second. We know everyone who’s out there, there’s a lot of people who don’t agree with it, but I don’t think it should add any pressure."
Instead of added pressure, Post 320 coach Paul Pool said the Stars have added confidence. They just competed in the Boulder National Invitational tournament in Colorado where they went 4-1 and made it to the quarterfinals.
More importantly, Pool said the lineup broke out of a hitting slump.
"Our kids really stepped up and swung the bats well; we’d kind of been in a little bit of a lull there swinging the bats," he said. "They really started coming around, everybody was having good at bats and hitting the ball pretty well, so that was really good to see."
Post 320 outscored its opponents 63-27 in the tournament, with 20 of those runs given up in a loss to Idaho Falls, Idaho, who was 40-3 on the season after the quarterfinal game.
"I think we’re feeling pretty dang confident," Burgess said. "After playing the tournament in Boulder, after every game having more than 10 hits, and after having the offense get going, I think we’re feeling pretty confident. We’re playing together and if we keep playing like that we should play really well."
Pool said before heading to Boulder, the main goal of the tournament was to get some players that had nagging injuries healthy again. Seth Brewer had been pitching less, but after starting a game (a 11-3 win against Slammers Sheridan) in the tournament, Pool said he is good to go for the regional tournament.
Beyer also got a few innings on the mound in Colorado and said he feels better than he's felt all season.
"I’m feeling good. We’ve been having treatment for a while and I threw a few pitches in Boulder and it honestly felt better than I’ve felt all year, and I think Seth is in the same boat," he said. "We had our last treatment (Tuesday) morning, so I think we’re set and ready to go, which will be huge for us. We need everybody healthy, hopefully Ian (Krump) can be healthy by then too."
Pool said Krump was used only as a designated hitter in Boulder and said he hopes he will be able to play the field and pitch, but he wasn't sure.
Before the Boulder tournament, Pool said some of the role players would have to step up into more prominent roles with so many starters battling injuries. Beyer said they did just that.
"We were bringing guys from off the bench and they were coming in and getting big hits off the wall and in the gaps," he said. "If, maybe today I’m just not seeing the ball well, it’s a good confidence booster to know that someone behind me is able to pick it up, pick me up and get some hits for the team. It’s really huge for the confidence of the whole team."
Pool said he also saw a team that was already close form a stronger bond, which he said can be rare this late in the season.
"I feel like we came together as a team. The kids really bonded even this late into the season," he said. "We played hard, won our pool and then won the first bracket-play game. Overall, I really think it went about as well as it could have went."
The tournament is double elimination with the top two teams advancing to the state tournament at Fitzgerald Stadium. As the state tournament host, Post 22 will not have to compete at the regional tournament.
Mitchell Post 18 and Pierre Post 8 play each other at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Pool said that like with all tournaments the biggest factor will be who has the most quality arms.
"Pitching, obviously, it never changes, especially when you get into a regional tournament," he said. "Mitchell will have some good pitching. Pierre will have some, we’ll have to go out and our guys will have to pitch well and keep us in the ball game and I think we have enough offense to do what we need to do."
Pool thinks his team is ready to do just that.
"The mood is loose and they’re ready to go, I think."