Apparently Renner Post 307 had Rapid City Post 22’s number this past week in the respective Senior and Junior American Legion state baseball tournaments.
The Renner Royals won the Senior tournament for the first time ever with a 6-4 win over the Hardhats Tuesday in Mitchell, while the Kings won the Junior tournament at Pete Lien Memorial Field with two wins over the Expos, also Tuesday, 7-0 and 11-9 in eight innings.
The photograph that the Journal published in Wednesday’s sports section, taken by the Mitchell Daily Republic, said it all with several Hardhats standing in disbelief after the game.
For those of us who get into East River versus West River battles, Tuesday was a little hard to take for the good guys. For the state's most successful American Legion program by a long shot, I imagine it felt worse.
“This one is tough,” Post 22 coach Kelvin Torve told the Journal after the game. “The script didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but that’s baseball and we always have next year.”
A good indicator of things to come came in the state opener for the Hardhats as they fell to Yankton 4-1, putting them in the loser’s bracket. A tough climb, Post 22 did come back with three wins to get into the title game(s) again. There was no “if necessary” game, thanks to the first-game Renner win.
The Hardhats, 47-15 on the season, were shooting for their 43rd state title. Renner, meanwhile, will stay close to home at the Central Plains Regional in Sioux Falls.
Like most sports, it's all about which team is playing the best at the end of the season. Going into state, Post 22 was 3-0 against Renner, outscoring the Royals 31-6.
None of that meant a thing this week. Renner played the best when it counted the most.
The Expos, meanwhile, were the team to beat going unbeaten into the final day of the Junior state tourney. The younger Renner team, the Kings, did to Post 22 what the Hardhats wanted to do against the Royals.
Renner, which fell to the Expos earlier in the tournament, dominated the first game 7-0 and never trailed in the second game for an 11-9 victory, surviving a four-run bottom of the seventh by Rapid City.
The Expos, 27-30, played about half of their games this season against varsity programs, and they still have some baseball remaining this season to play as they, along with Renner, have qualified for the regional tournament in Fargo, N.D.
“There’s only so many days of your baseball life, and we’ll get a few more this season,” Expos coach Ty Daly said after the loss to Renner.
In baseball terminology, we’re in the seventh-inning stretch. The Post 320 Risers are currently playing in the 16-under state tournament in Renner, while the Canyon Lake Little League All-Stars, the Black Hills American Junior Little League All-Stars and the Expos still have games to play at their respective regionals.
Canyon Lake is making it's fifth trip in seven years to the Midwest Regionals in Indianapolis. Look for a regional preview in Saturday’s Journal.
The Black Hills Americans will compete in their regional tournament this weekend in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Still, the boys of summer.
Meanwhile, in Wyoming and Montana
Just to the west of us was also the Wyoming state tournament in Gillette and the Montana Alberta State Tournament in Billings.
If you're assuming that Cheyenne Post 6 or the Gillette Riders came away with another Wyoming state title, assume again.
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In a different move, Post 6 elected to not play in the Wyoming American Legion state tournament and instead qualified and competed in the Connie Mack World Series, which was being held at the same time.
Cheyenne, 51-25 overall, went 1-4 in pool play at the Connie Mack World Series.
Without the Sixers, one would think that would open the door for the Riders, but that wasn't the case. Gillette failed to even get to the championship game, where the Casper Oilers won their first state title since 1996 by defeating the Jackson Giants, who were making their first-ever appearance in the Class AA state title game.
It was business as usual, though, in Montana, as the Bozeman Bucks, who edged Post 22 6-4 in Billings and 6-5 in the Veteran's Classic at Fitzgerald Stadium, won their state title with a 6-1 win over the Billings Royals on Wednesday.
From Geoff to Jeff
For those keeping score, the Journal sports department does indeed have a new man on board ... kind of. He's a familiar face to longtime RCJ readers, as Jeff Easton has returned to the mother ship.
Easton was with the Journal in the late 1990s to late 2000s, and in his return he replaces Geoff Preston, who has moved on to the Greenville (S.C.) News after about three years at the Journal.
Easton was thrown into the fire on his return as yours truly began a two-week vacation (I know, good timing). He, sports clerk Aaron Finnell, RCJ editor Kent Bush and correspondent Joe Kavanaugh did a good job of keeping things going while I helped celebrate my mother’s (Mary Anderson) 90th birthday in Hot Springs with a gaggle of Andersons and Hannans.
My return, though, was somewhat auspicious, as RCJ publisher Matthew Tranquill called me Jim, someone was parking in my reserved spot and there is a framed picture of Minnesota Vikings receiver Adam Thielen directly behind my desk after a newsroom remodel.
As a life-long Cheesehead, that hurts.
I wish no harm to Thielen, the Vikings or their fans, but Go Pack Go all the way.
Football, fall sports are on the horizon
Just a reminder to all area high school football coaches: check your school email.
As I write and you read, season preview questionnaires are being sent out. Prep football practice begins soon, with the first games for 11B and 9-man set for Aug. 23.
Yes, that soon.
Class 11A, AA and AAA, practices begin Aug. 15 with games starting Aug. 30.
And FYI, the Journal is bringing back the high school football preview special edition Aug. 28.
Also, coaches in the other fall sports — boys’ and girls’ cross country, volleyball, girls’ tennis, boys’ and girls’ soccer and boys’ golf, preview questionnaires will also be emailed to the respective head coaches. Again, check your school emails.
Girls’ tennis and boys' and girls' soccer have first game-time action around Aug. 16, with boys’ golf Aug. 19 and volleyball Aug. 27.
Yeah, I know. Where did the summer go?