After two lopsided wins in which Rapid City Post 22 was tested before blowing out its opponents, Friday night was a complete test for the Hardhats.
Again, they passed with flying colors, coming from behind to beat Renner Post 307 4-3 in the battle of unbeatens in the State A American Legion baseball tournament at Hyde Stadium in Pierre.
After outscoring Brookings and Mitchell 23-2 in their first two games of the tournament, this game wouldn't be a laugher for the Hardhats. Post 22 trailed 2-0 before battling back to tie the game and scratching out a couple more runs for the win.
"This is playoff baseball," Post 22 manager Kelvin Torve said. "It's two good teams with two good pitchers. We just battled and scratched. We didn't have a perfect day at the plate, but we scored enough to win."
Friday was the first time that the Hardhats, 53-10, had trailed in the state tournament, and only the second time in the postseason that they were behind.
At the same time, Torve said there had been several times his team had trailed and come back to win during the season. He said it was nice to know that they still had it.
"We can still come back and battle and compete," he said.
Renner took a 2-0 lead in the top of the third inning on a throwing error by the Hardhats after a base hit, and a RBI single by Trey Rogers.
But the Hardhats came right back with two runs in the bottom of the same inning, on a sacrifice fly by Matthew Hegre and a RBI a single by Jack Sorensen.
Post 22 took a 3-2 lead in the fourth on another sac fly by Hegre.
Renner came back to tie the game in the top of the fifth on a RBI single by Quentin Evers, only to see he Hardhats regain the lead on a run-scoring triple by Ryan Schmidt, scoring Jace Caldwell.
Despite a couple of threats, Post 22 relievers Tad Scherbenske and Cooper Bowman kept the Royals off the board the rest of the way for the win.
Bowman came on in the bottom of the sixth with one runners on first and second and snagged a hard line drive by Justin Aldrich to get out of the jam on one pitch.
He then threw a scoreless seventh inning to earn the save.
"He not only threw a good pitch, he fielded his position and got it done," said Torve.
Zach Whitesell got the win, giving up all three runs on seven hits in five innings. He walked three and struck out two.
"Zach struggled with his control tonight. He seemed to be missing from the outside a lot," Torve said. 'But he is a tremendous competitor and battled his way through; he kept it close. Because he is such a competitor, he kept us in the ballgame."
The Hardhats had just six hits with Schmidt leading the way with two hits. Hegre knocked in a pair of runs without earning a hit.
Torve said that there is a myriad of ways to score runs, and they tried them all.
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"We didn't get that many hits, but we managed to get four runs and give up three," he said. "I'm no math major, but that adds up to a win."
Going into Friday's game, it was already basically decided that win or lose, the Hardhats were to play Brandon Valley on Saturday because officials wanted to avoid teams that had already played each other at this point of the tournament.
Torve said it will still be important to remain unbeaten because now they have two games to win won on Saturday for the title.
"We're going to go after it like we need it badly, and I anticipate that we do the same thing that we have done all tournament and all year, and that is compete," he said. "Hopefully we will figure out a way to win that one, too."
Nick Hoekstra led Renner, 34-15, with two hits. Logan Ymker took the loss, giving up six hits and all four runs in 4 2/3 innings, with Kobe Lien pitching a scoreless 1 1/3 innings.
The Royals take on Mitchell today at 3 p.m. Earlier in the day, Brandon Valley eliminated defending state champion Pierre 15-2 and Mitchell got past Sioux Falls East 4-2.
Shooters stay alive with big win over Harrisburg
The Rapid City Post 320 Shooters kept their hopes alive by blasting Harrisburg 13-2 Friday in an elimination game of the Junior State American Legion baseball tournament in Mitchell.
The Shooters used an eight-run second inning take control of the game.
Tyler Danley and Sam Matthes led Post 320 with three hits each, with Matthes knocking in three runs. J.T. Kostenbauer, Tate Walker, Mitch Sand and Orion Brenden all had two hits each for the Shooters.
Kostenbauer earned the win on the mound, giving up two hits and one run in three innings, with Brenden pitching the final two innings, giving up three hits and one run.
With the win, the Shooters will face Watertown today at 6 p.m.
Expos suffer first loss in Junior tourney
The Rapid City Post 22 Expos were dropped into the loser's bracket for the first time in the Junior State American Legion baseball tournament, falling to Watertown 5-2 on Friday.
Watertown jumped on the Expos for three runs in the bottom of the first and never trailed in the game.
The Expos scored single runs in the fifth and sixth innings, but each time Watertown responded with one run in the bottom half of the inning.
Thomas Maguire had two of the Expos five hits, with one RBI. Daniel Vigoren knocked in the other Post 22 run.
Troy Wilhelm took the loss for the Expos, giving up four hits and all five runs (only one earned) in five innings. Colton Hartford pitched a scoreless sixth inning.
The Expos will look to stay alive today at 3 p.m. against Renner.