It was a tale of two high school baseball teams heading in completely different directions.
Tuesday night at McKeague Field, Sturgis scored seven runs in the second inning and eight in the sixth inning to roll against Rapid City Central in six 15-4.
The win moved Sturgis to 6-0, while Central fell to 2-10.
"We've been working on hitting the ball and we've been working on our defense a lot," Sturgis coach Wade Huntington said. "Our pitching was strong last year and we returned everyone, so we knew our pitching would be in pretty good shape. It's just about playing defense behind the pitcher and getting some runs."
Pitching was strong again for the Scoopers, as Caleb Bates went five solid innings, only giving up nine hits, striking out six and giving up three earned runs.
Huntington said the one thing his team needs to improve on is its defense. He said Bates probably could have gone the entire game but a three-run fifth inning in which the Scoopers committed two errors hurt his pitch count.
"It's been our Achilles' heel, it was our Achilles' heel last year and it's still kind of been that way this year," he said. "Fortunately tonight, it was only one inning and we answered. That's been the biggest thing with these boys. When you make an error you keep your chin up, go get your hands on a bat the next inning and all will be well."
That's exactly what Sturgis did. After falling down 1-0 in the bottom of the first the Scoopers responded with seven runs in the second inning. The score was 7-4 after the fifth inning, but Sturgis responded with an eight run sixth.
Josh West came in the bottom of the sixth to close things out, and did so with three straight outs putting the mercy rule into effect.
West was also good at the plate, going 3--for-4 with three singles, a walk, two runs scored and two big RBI in the second inning to blow the game open.
West will be given the ball again Thursday when Sturgis hosts Brookings. Huntington said he isn't worried about West going on short rest because of how easily he handled the Cobblers in the bottom of the sixth.
Central did a lot of damage to itself on the mound. Starter Josh Holmes lasted only 1 2/3 innings, giving up six hits and seven earned runs. As a staff, the Cobblers walked six batters. Central also committed three errors.
"Right now as a team we're struggling to come together. When the team starts to fracture kids start playing selfish baseball," Central coach Mike McCulley said. "Their heads aren't in the game and we've got a lot of discipline issues right off the bat. Then our pitchers come out and start struggling, can't find the strike zone, walks, guys behind them aren't picking them up. We're not playing team baseball right now."
In its 10 losses this season, Central has been outscored 91-25. Monday the team had a meeting to address concerns about its play.
"We tried to come together as a team. I'm guessing some of the stuff didn't sink in and it shows," he said. "Hats off to Sturgis, they came to play baseball and obviously we didn't. We're waiting for someone else to do it instead of someone saying 'hey, it starts with me.'"
Lack of talent isn't the issue, according to McCulley. He said it's just a matter of putting it all together.
"That's the most frustrating part. You can talk to other coaches in the area or who have come out here, the talent is there," he said. "For whatever reason they aren't playing together and we have to get that fixed."
Huntington said he knew going into the game this would be a test. Despite winning by 11 runs, he said he knows Central can swing the bats and he was happy with giving up only four runs.
As far as what the Scoopers can do this season, he said it's too early to tell. In their first six games of the season they have beaten Lead-Deadwood three times by a combined score of 26-6. They beat Huron 7-5, Belle Fourche 13-0 and now the win against Central.
Still, the defense remains a concern for Huntington. He said if Sturgis can figure out how to be better behind an experienced staff, the team could be special.
"No disrespect to the other teams we played, but we didn't see Huron's best when they came out," he said. "I think it's just too early to tell, but I think tonight is a good indication of what this team can do with the bats and the pitching. If we hit like that and clean up our defense, we can play with anyone in the state."
Sturgis's game against Brookings will be at Strong Field at 6 p.m. Central will get the Bobcats the day after, with a Friday game at 11 a.m. at McKeague Field.