The Rapid City Post 22 Hardhats saw their season come to a tough end Saturday, falling to Dubuque County, Iowa 8-4 in the Central Plains Regional American Legion baseball tournament in Dickinson, North Dakota.
The Hardhats finished 2-2 in the tournament, with both losses coming to Dubuque County (8-2 on Wednesday). Post 22 was 57-12 in Kelvin Torve's first season at the helm.
Dubuque County, which was put in the elimination round Friday night after losing a three-run lead in the bottom of the seventh to West Fargo, stayed ahead of the Hardhats enough to avoid that situation on Saturday.
"They came out swinging the bats and jumped out on us right away," Torve said. "We battled back, but we needed one more hit in certain situations. We didn't play clean baseball either. There were a couple of times we had a play around the second base bag where the ball squirted away, and they ended up getting another base or another run."
Dubuque County led 4-0 heading into the bottom of the third, only to see Post 22 score twice in the inning. But each time the Hardhats would battle back, Post 137 had an answer, with three more runs in the fourth and one more in the sixth.
"One thing we did do is we competed all seven innings; we never gave up," Torve said. "Hats off to Dubuque, they are a good baseball team."
Torve said Dubuque is not only a good overall team, but it is deep pitching-wise.
"We saw five of their pitchers, and every single one of them was good. They throw breaking balls for strikes and they threw hard enough to keep you honest," he said.
Jack Sorensen and Alex Weaver had two hits each for the Hardhats, while Cooper Bowman and Tod Stephens had one RBI each.
Zach Sumption, who shut out Mitchell on three hits in the state title game last Sunday, was the pitcher on record, giving up eight hits and seven runs in 3 2/3 innings. Bransen Kuehl had two walks without getting an out and Holden Jackson finished up by giving up one unearned run in 3 1/3 innings.
Sam Link and Kyle Lehmann led the way for Dubuque County with three hits each. Dubuque County will face West Fargo for the title Sunday at noon. West Fargo edged Omaha Burke 5-3 on Saturday.
While Torve said it is always disappointing when you end the season with a loss, he added that they still had an outstanding year.
"There were 32 teams playing today out of about 3,400 American Legion teams. We're in the top 32 in the country and that is something to be very proud of," he said.
The former Hardhat player and Major Leaguer also said he told the team after the game that they made it easy for him in his first year as the varsity head coach.
"I've said it all year that they care about each other, they play for each other," he said. "There is no higher testimony than when the guys today had an option of riding home with their parents, and the whole team wanted to ride home on the bus, to be around their teammates for the last three hours. It is a blessing to see that these guys care about each other as much as they do."