ANDERSON: We're getting closer to shouting 'play ball'
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ANDERSON: We're getting closer to shouting 'play ball'

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We’re getting closer to an actual local baseball season, at least we think.

It’s a combination of keeping your fingers crossed and knocking on wood at the same time.

American Legion baseball has been given the go-ahead to play this summer, although not officially sponsored by the National American Legion Headquarters. Post 22 and Post 320 can play as Post 22 and Post 320 and be sponsored by the respective American Legion posts and wear the patches on their uniforms.

Of course, we all know that there will be no national regional tournaments and no World Series. The National American Legion organization also officially canceled the season as a whole under Legion rule.

The South Dakota state coaches, however, are planning a state tournament, just so the players, especially the seniors in their last season, can play for a state title.

On May 13th, the South Dakota executive committee adopted the following motion.

"Motion to sanction a 2020 South Dakota American Legion Baseball Program to be administrated by sponsoring Posts, coaches, and managers. That these teams follow guidelines recommended by the State Athletic Commission, which states Teams must abide by local, state, and national COVID19 policies, have insurance and have permission from city officials to play."

The executive committee passed this motion because "It's the right thing to do."

Although the complete season schedules have not been released as of yet, Post 22 will open the season at home June 6 against Mitchell and Post 320 will be at Sturgis Post 33 June 3.

Spearfish Post 164 is also planning to compete this season, although no schedule has been released.

Rapid City will host two varsity tournaments — the Veteran’s Classic co-hosted by 22 and 320, while the Hardhats will host their annual Firecracker Tournament.

Tentative at best complete schedules will be out soon, and let’s just say we’ll go from there.

Other area states are underway as well. In Wyoming, Cheyenne Post 6 blanked the Casper Oilers 11-0 earlier in the week, and Friday night in Montana, the Billings Expos AA no-hit the 406 Flyers 6-3.

Other youth baseball and softball programs are now practicing and will also get underway in June. It will be interesting to see how the turnout will be, especially in some of the younger leagues.

Regardless, the opportunity is there and this columnist’s two favorite words of the summer are “Play Ball.”

Former Hot Springs football coach Larry Ireland passes away

Friday was a sad day for Hot Springs High School football fans and the community as a whole, when it was learned that former head football coach Larry Ireland passed away earlier in the day.

Ireland led the 1974 Bison to an undefeated 9-0 season and its lone football state title. It was before the state implemented the current postseason state tournament. The Bison were voted No. 1 in Class B by the South Dakota Sportswriters Association and he was named the 1974 South Dakota Coach of the Year.

That year the Bison also won a Black Hills Conference title. Ireland spent four seasons at the helm in Hot Springs (1973-76), where he had an overall record of 29-7. He was also an assistant basketball coach and teacher.

Ireland and that 1974 team was inducted in the inaugural Hot Springs High School Athletics Hall of Fame. Among the players on that squad were HSHS individual Hall of Famers Rick Wass, who went on to play at South Dakota School of Mines and earn that program’s Hall of Fame honors; Quinten Hofer, who started on the offensive line at South Dakota State University and two-time all-state running back Paul Oberpriller. The quarterback on that team was a sophomore, Carlos Cornay, who went on to play at Dakota State University.

Ireland was also inducted into the Yankton College Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998. He started at both running back and defensive back in his career at Yankton, graduating in 1968.

Coaching carousel

Just call Wayne Sullivan the "elder statesman" of West River and especially Black Hills football coaches.

Going into the upcoming season, Sullivan will begin his 30th year at the helm at STM.

This has certainly been an interesting off-season for not only football coaches, but high school coaches as a whole.

There will be new football coaches at Rapid City Stevens (to be determined, replacing Steve Svendsen), Rapid City Central (Neal Cruce, replacing Erik Iverson), Rapid City Christian (Ben Connot, replacing Ron McLaughlin) and Spearfish (Dalton Wademan, replacing Chad McCarty).

You can almost add up all of the years of experience of area coaches and not match Sullivan's tenure. Well, not quite, but almost. Ben Kramer at Hot Springs, Dan Maciejczak at Douglas, Scott Slotten at Bell Fourche and Chris Koletzky at Sturgis will add up to a bit over 30 years this fall, but you get my drift.

There's probably more changes, and we'll find that out doing our annual football season previews in about three months.

Also in Rapid City in all sports, there have been several other moves. At Central, there will be a new volleyball coach (Jayna Morrill, who formally coached at Spearfish, replaces Jeannie Deming), a new girls' basketball coach (to be determined, replacing Kraig Blomme) and a new track and field coach (Pat Moriarty, who replaces the retired Dave Dolan).

At Stevens, Michael Brooks returns as the Raider girls' basketball coach after a year hiatus, replacing Travis Swartz, who took over for Brooks on an interim basis last year. Swartz will go back to becoming an assistant coach.

On the college football level, both Black Hills State and South Dakota School of Mines will have new head coaches. Josh Breske replaces John Reiners at BHSU and Charlie Flohr replaces Zach Tinker at Mines.

I'm going to have to write this stuff down.

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