There was no panic in the Rapid City Post 320 dugout, even when the Stars trailed Gillette 5-0 in the fifth inning.
A single, nine-inning game, they knew they had to time to get back in the contest.
The Stars did just that. In the bottom of the seventh Lane Darrow hit an opposite-field, three-run double to lift Post 320 to a 6-5 win over the Gillette Riders Thursday night at Pete Lien Memorial Field.
Post 320 struggled offensively for much of the early part of the game and fell behind against Gillette starting pitcher Kaden Race. They chipped away for two runs in the bottom of the fifth and took Race out with the four-run seventh.
The Stars also got strong relief pitching and defense, blanking the Riders in the final four innings. The game ended on a line drive double play, moving Post 320 to 3-0 on the young season.
Post 320 manager Brian Humphries said that they're a young team but experienced enough on the varsity level to know that because it was a nine-inning game, rather than seven innings, they were not out of it.
"I could tell by the first three varsity games of the season that we're going to put up most of our runs late in the game," he said. "In the first three games we've been a little slow at the beginning, feeling the pitcher out, getting the timing down, and the bats seem to come alive later in the innings."
Trailing 5-2 in the bottom of the seventh, the Stars opened the inning with a single by Jett Wetzler, a double by catcher Peyton Ness, and loaded the bases when Isaac Dike was hit by a pitch.
Post 320 made it 5-3 when a ground ball by Bryan Roselles was muffed, scoring Wetzler.
Darrow then laced his double down the right-field line. He tried to stretch it to a triple, but was thrown out on the play to allow Dike to score. Darrow said he just sat back and waited on Race's curve ball and took it opposite field.
"They just got on base and I just did my job," he said. "Throughout the whole game I didn't get the best hits off of him, so I knew I was due. I did my job."
Humphries said that hit was a pivotal momentum shift for the Stars.
"We had pretty good speed on the bases, and I think he (Darrow) enticed the first baseman to cut it off and throw it to third base," he said. "Maybe it wasn't the right thing to do with him being our lead-off hitter, and if he stays on second he could have scored on a base hit. But I can't be upset with him for being aggressive. He was able to entice the first baseman to third base and ensure us that we got that third run."
After no runs and just two hits through the first four innings against Race, the Stars scored twice in the fifth on a RBI ground out by Roselles and a RBI single by Lane Darrow.
"This was one of the better teams that we will face in this area, and the first true test against somebody who throws with more velocity," Humphries said. "Spearfish has a good, young team, but they don't have the experience and the arms that Gillette does. To be able to beat a team like this, a team that beat Sturgis twice, it leaves us good momentum going forward, and it allows us to know that we can beat good teams."
Gillette, 6-3, scored two runs in the third on a RBI single by Mason Drube and a RBI double by Joey Sturdevant, and three more times in the fifth on a sac fly by Brady Richardson, a run-scoring triple by Cory Schilling and a RBI single by Jason Fink.
Garrett Grismer picked up the win in relief of starter Hayden Leighty, scattering four hits and three runs in three innings. Ashton Dahl came on and got the save with two scoreless innings.
"I was a little stressed out, but you have to pull it together to win the game," Dahl said. "You have to throw strikes, just hit your spots and just let them hit the ball, honestly."
With the possible game-tying run on first, Dahl induced Sturdevant to hit a line drive to Dike at third, who fired it to first to end the game.
"It is really nice when your players have your back," Dahl said.
Leighty gave up two runs on three hits in four innings. Gillette had eight hits.
Humphries said that all three off his pitchers threw well.
"Grismer, who is one of my veteran pitchers, had his first outing and probably was a little nervous," he said. "That first inning as a little rough, as he was leaving too much stuff over the plate. But he came back in his second inning and pitched really well, and he pitched well in his third inning, and Ashton was able to come in and close it out."
Lane Darrow had three hits and four RBI, while Roselles had two RBI despite no hits. Jett Wetzler finished with three hits and Ness added two hits.
"This is a pretty good team and probably one of the better pitchers we will see this year," Lane Darrow said. "For us to come back and prove that we're not going to give up, it gives us a lot of confidence when we are down, to keep going and never give up."
The Stars return to action with three more home games this weekend, hosting Miles City, Mont., for a doubleheader Saturday (5 p.m.) and a single game Sunday at 10 a.m.
"I couldn't be more pleased with how my guys played. The result will take care of itself, and we played very good fundamental baseball today," Humphries said.