Early on it was apparent that this was going to be a little different type of game for the Rapid City Post 22 Hardhats, as they faced off against Brandon Valley Saturday in the State A American Legion baseball tournament at Hyde Stadium in Pierre.
Once again, the Hardhats responded with another big come-from-behind win, 14-6 over the Lynx, eliminating Brandon Valley and putting Post 22 in a two games to win one situation for the title.
Mitchell, which eliminated Renner 8-7 earlier in the day, will have to beat the Hardhats twice today to lay claim to the title. First pitch is scheduled for noon MDT.
For the first time in the tournament on Friday, the Hardhats had to come from behind in the win over Renner. It happened twice against Brandon Valley on Saturday.
Post 131 scored three times in the second inning for a 3-0 lead, only to see the Hardhats score four times in the bottom half of the inning. Brandon Valley responded with three more runs for a 6-4 lead.
Again, Post 22 responded. But this time the Hardhats didn't let the Lynx back in it with the game's final 10 runs — five runs in the fourth, four in the fifth and one more in the sixth.
Despite knowing they would play on Sunday, Post 22 manager Kelvin Torve didn't want his team to let off of the gas.
Instead, they gunned it.
"We need to keep this train rolling and keep our momentum going," he said. "We did that (Saturday) and we have one more to get. I'm excited where our team is at right now."
After a two-run double by Will Brown highlighted the three-run second for Brandon Valley against Post 22 starting pitcher Drew Messer, the Hardhat bats had an answer.
And the big hits came from a couple lesser-known bats, as catcher Tod Stephens — in his first appearance in the tournament — had a two-run single, while third baseman Ryan Bachman added a two-run single as a pinch-hitter.
Post 22 muffed a Brandon Valley bunt that led to a pair of runs in the next inning and the Lynx suddenly were up again 6-4.
The Hardhat bats once again had an answer with a little help from Bandon Valley wildness on the mound.
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Post 22 loaded the bases on three straight walks by Weston Struble to open the inning, and Zach Caldwell brought home a run on a sacrifice fly and Zach Sumption gave the Hardhats the lead back on a two-run single.
Post 22 loaded the bases again on a single by Alex Weaver and Stephens was hit by a pitch. A walk to Mason Messinger brought home a run and Weaver alertly scored from third when Brandon Valley catcher Jacob Johnson air-mailed a throw back to the pitcher.
The Hardhats put the game away with the four-run fifth. Bachman opened the inning with a double, and with two outs, he scored on a double by Caldwell. Weaver had a RBI single and Stephens brought two more runs home on a double for a 13-6 advantage.
Cooper Bowman had a RBI double to close the scoring in the sixth.
Post 22 pounded out 14 hits, three each by Stephens and Weaver, and two each by Bachman and Sumption. The bottom four hitters in the lineup combined for eight hits and seven RBI.
"Tod Stephens had a big day and Ryan Bachman came off the bench and had another big day," Torve said. "It wasn't our 3-4-5 guys. Alex Weaver had three hits and Zach Sumption had a couple of hits and a couple of RBIs. Everybody contributed, and it was a good team win."
The continued offensive output came at a good time to off-set the Brandon Valley rally.
"Brandon Valley swings the bats. They were running a little dry on pitching, but with that being said, we still had to hit the baseball," Torve said. "We were competitive at the plate and we didn't give away too many at bats. I was just really happy with the way we swang it today."
Bransen Kuehl got the win on the mound, as he went the final four innings, giving up just one hit despite the three unearned runs in the fourth. He did walk six and strike out four. Messer gave up two hits and three runs in three innings.
The Hardhats will now face Mitchell for the second time in this tournament, the fourth time in postseason play and the sixth time this season.
No advance scouting is needed.
"Mitchell is a dangerous team. They are well coached and they are fundamentally sound; I expect a good game," Torve said. "We have played them a lot this year, we're pretty familiar with each other. We're going to have to keep our focus, keep our energy going to keep our momentum if we want to win the state championship."