Post 22 second baseman Mason Messinger, right, talks to pitcher True Synhorst last Saturday in a game against Renner. The Hardhats host the annual Veterans Classic Thursday through Sunday at Fitzgerald Stadium.

The Rapid City Post 22 Hardhats will dive into its first actual tournament of the regular season, hosting the Veterans Classic tonight through Sunday at Fitzgerald Stadium.

It's the first of two tournaments the Post 22 varsity will host — the second is the annual Camping World Firecracker Classic June 29-July 4. The Hardhats will also compete in Sioux Falls tournament June 14-16, the Creighton Prep (Omaha, Neb.) Pre-Regional Tournament June 19-22 and the Gopher Classic (Minneapolis) July 12-16.

"It's a wonderful training ground for postseason baseball," Post 22 head coach Kelvin Torve said. "I enjoy doing it, the players enjoy doing it. It's a good time to get mentally tough and just play baseball."

Post 22 opens the Veterans Classic tonight against the Northern Colorado (NoCo) Roughnecks from Loveland, Colorado, at 7 p.m.

Other teams competing are the Post 22 Expos, the Billings Royals, Bozeman Bucks and Sterling, Colo.

The younger Expos will open today at 1 p.m. against Sterling.

"This tournament has good teams in it. You have to bring your A game every night if you want to have success," he said. "We've played Billings twice and both were good, close ballgames."

The Hardhats, after a couple of stumbles early in the season, have won seven of their last games, including an 8-3 win over Sturgis Tuesday night, and stand at 11-6 on the season.

Torve said they are beginning to find their rhythm.

"In Sturgis all of our pitchers threw strikes. We struggled at the plate again, but if we pitch, we will be in every game. We have some good arms on our staff," he said. "I'm looking forward to the next two months."

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Torve said once they begin this tournament onslaught, this is where the pitching rotation begins to take shape.

"The pitchers, because we have so many games in a row, they have to go deep into the game and they have to be more efficient with their pitches," he said. "This is the crucible in which we determine, not just the pitching staff, but the final 18 games who will make our roster."

Torve said that Matthew Hegre, the team's leading hitter (.490), is back full time and will be at third base. He had been battling influenza the last couple of weeks. He was able to DH at times, though.

"He was weak and couldn't  lift weights and he lost weight," Torve said. "He was a gamer and got through it. He DH'd a couple of games for us and still got big hits. I appreciate him wanting to play as well as playing as well as he did."

Responders Day

Saturday night will be First Responders Day at Fitzgerald Stadium. From 5 p.m. until the start of the final game at 7 p.m., a police car and an officer, a firetruck and a firefighter and possibly a K-9 dog will be on hand. A police officer has been chosen to throw out the first pitch and a first responder will sing the national anthem.

Riders, Shooters to host Jim Scull Tournament

On Friday through Sunday, the Rapid City Post 320 Risers and Shooters will host the annual Jim Scull Tournament at Pete Lien Memorial Field.

Other teams competing will be the Rapid City Post 22 Bullets and Williston, N.D.

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Sports Editor

Sports reporter for the Rapid City Journal.