Brandon Rufledt could do nothing but give Hayden Holec a tip of his hat after he lined out to Holec in the bottom of the sixth inning Thursday in a one-run West River Sub-District Little League game at Timberline Complex.
Make that a tip of his batting helmet to his cousin, who made a diving catch to his right on a screaming line drive to help preserve the 4-3 win over Rushmore.
That play might have typified a game that was an about-face from the other two, as Canyon Lake and Rushmore battled down to the wire in a well-played Little League contest. The other two games were lop-sided, as Harney defeated Sturgis 15-7 and Timberline crushed Belle Fourche 27-1.
Canyon Lake jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second inning before Rushmore battled back with two runs in the fourth and one more in the fifth.
"I honestly didn't think I was going to catch it," Holec said. "But I guess since I am kind of tall (5-foot-10), I got to it."
If Holec doesn't snag Rufledt's line drive, the tying run is on second base with no outs.
"It's just been practice, practice, practice," Holec said. "We've been practicing for the past 10 days and have been doing fly balls and ground balls, keeping consistent."
It proved to be the best game of the day by far, as the score indicated.
"That was a great battle," Canyon Lake manager Bill Holec, Hayden's father, said. "At this time of the year you see kids competing at the highest level they can. That was a great team, and we just ended up on top. Hat's off to them (Rushmore), they played a great game."
Canyon Lake led 1-0 before Wilson Kieffler's three-run home run in the third made it a 4-0 game. Rushmore got to Holec, who was on the mound at the time, for two runs in the fourth, and made it a 4-3 game in the fifth.
Tate Crosswait, who pitched the final two innings, struck out two batters sandwiched with a walk, to end the game.
Both teams had six hits and combined for just two errors and six walks.
"We were a couple of plays away in a couple of spots," Rushmore manager Josh Blake said. "They made some great defensive plays and we hit the ball to their pitcher quite a bit. If we get around that and put the ball in play in other spots, it's a different game."
Tanner Staller, Rufledt and Tysen Heintzman all drove in one run for Rushmore, which will face Sturgis today at 3:30 p.m.
Canyon Lake, meanwhile, will take on Harney tonight at 6 in the A bracket semifinal. For now, Hayden Holec and his teammates will concentrate on the rest of the tournament. Later, he'll likely get with his cousin for a little reminiscing of his catch.
"There is probably going to be a lot of laughing," he said.
HARNEY 15, STURGIS 7: In the other A bracket game, Harney used a big nine-run fifth inning for the win.
They needed it as Sturgis chipped away in the last couple of innings to close the gap.
"In the first game the kids are always a little bit nervous. It takes a minute to get going, and they got going in that inning. It was a huge inning," Harney manager Jeremiah McKnight said. "Their big guy (Dalyn Dschaak from Sturgis) came to pitch today. We finally we got on him and got out to a big lead."
It was a tight game for most of the way, with both teams scoring twice in the second inning, and Harney leading by just a 3-2 count heading into the fifth.
Harney got its bats going with five hits and a couple of Sturgis errors in that nine-run fifth.
Sturgis would come back with two in the bottom of the fifth and three more in the sixth after Harney tacked on three runs in the top of the inning.
"Once we got through the first time up everybody was more relaxed," McKnight said. "We settled in and did well, and Sturgis never went away. They hung tight."
Harney had 11 hits, as Dominick McKnight, Korbin Madsen, Jayden Ogle and Brandon Kolve all had two hits. Madsen had four RBI, Kolve three runs batted in and Ogle two RBI.
"I love innings like that (the fifth)," Kolve said. "I got to hit twice and everybody hit the ball well in that inning. I think that big inning helped, but it also kind of made everybody slack off on defense because we thought we had it automatically."
Sturgis had six players with one hit, with Aiden Hedderman, Dschaak, Evan Stroud and Dawson Inhofer all knocking in one run.
TIMBERLINE 27, BELLE FOURCHE 1: The host team led comfortably through three innings before exploding for 15 runs in the fourth.
Timberline, which had 13 hits and took advantage of 11 Belle Fourche walks and three errors, scored seven runs in the second inning and led 12-1 heading into the fourth. Elijah Hoyt had an early three-run home run to spark Timberline.
"When we took off in the second inning and third inning, we hammered down and didn't stop the whole game," Timberline's Harrison Good said. "Our pitching was on, our hitting was on, and we strung together those big hits. That's what happened this game," added Good, who pitched two hitless and scoreless innings to start the game.
Good gave Belle Fourche fits with three hits and eight runs batted in. He hit a three-run home run in the 15-run fourth inning.
"That's a usual day for Harrison Good," he said with a laugh.
Timberline manager Bryan Olmsted was pleased with his team's start to the tournament.
"You want to come out and start well right away on your home field," Olmsted said. "The boys did that; they played great as a team, hitting and pitching. The team did great today."
Treyton Walker and Chance Yellow both knocked in a pair of runs for Timberline, which will take on Spearfish tonight at 6 p.m. Spearfish had a first-round bye in the B bracket.
"If we come out and play the same game we played today, good things will happen," Olmsted said.
Belle Fourche will play the loser of the Timberline-Spearfish game on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.