STURGIS — Before the start of the American Legion Region 3A baseball tournament, Rapid City Post 22 coach Kelvin Torve said he didn't think his team was the favorite.
It turned out not to matter, the result was the same as usual for the Hardhats.
Post 22, 50-10, topped Mitchell Post 18 6-2 Friday at Strong Field to claim the regional crown.
"It’s the first step. The big one is next and we’ll see how that goes," Torve said. "We’ll go up there and try to do the same thing we’ve done all year, and I think we’ll be fine."
The Hardhats had already clinched a berth in the Class A state tournament in Pierre, but still came out against Mitchell with a purpose.
"We played well, Mitchell is a good team. They’re well coached, they’re fundamentally sound, and we played well against them," Torve said. "It took us a little time to get going against Sturgis, but (Zach) Chiolis looked great yesterday and Sump (Zach Sumption) was fantastic today. We got a couple of runs early which gave us some cushion and that was important."
Sumption was solid on the mound for Post 22. He went six innings, gave up three hits, one earned run, three walks and registered four strikeouts.
The Hardhats got started in the bottom of the first inning when a Jack Sorensen single scored Connor King, and then a Alex Weaver single scored Cooper Bowman.
Post 18 loaded the bases in the top of the first, and it struck in the second when Carter Max scored on a single from Jared Miller.
After the second inning, Sumption settled down and was unhittable the rest of the way.
"I knew our defense would make plays. I just needed to throw strikes and I knew our defense wouldn’t have a problem," Sumption said. "Mitchell can hit really well, but as long as I threw strikes, I knew we’d have a chance at winning this game. We struggled a little bit in the beginning, but we came back."
Sumption said he didn't have as intimidating of a curveball as he normally does, but was able to make his other pitches work.
You have free articles remaining.
"The curveball usually works well, but today it wasn’t as sharp as it usually was, but the changeup was sharp today, so that’s what we used as our second pitch," he said. "They’re a really good hitting team. We did better the first couple of times we saw them, but today we still came out and hit the ball. I like the way they hit, they’re a good fielding team, they come to play when it matters."
Torve said he was impressed with how Sumption was able to make adjustments.
"The mound was different. He was complaining about the mound a little bit, but he made the adjustment," he said. "They scored a run in the second and didn’t score after that. He didn’t use the mound as an excuse, he got out there and competed and I really respect that."
In the bottom of the second, Post 22 continued scoring runs. Tod Stephens scored on a fielder's choice. Ryan Bachman scored later in the inning on a single from Sorensen and Bowman ended the inning scoring on a single from Jace Caldwell.
Post 22's bats would go quiet until the bottom of the fifth when a sacrifice fly scored Weaver.
Post 18 got a run in the top of the seventh, but the damage was done. Bransen Kuehl came in the seventh after a 45-minute lightning delay and gave up no hits, one earned run, two walks and struck out one.
The win means the Hardhats will face Region 1A runner-up Brookings Post 74 Wednesday as the state tournament gets started.
Last season Post 22 was upset in the state tournament at Fitzgerald Stadium despite being the tournament's No. 1 seed. Torve, who was not the coach of last year's team, said the team doesn't let what happened last year impact it because no one talks about it.
"Without speaking on last year’s team, we don’t have any prima donnas on this team. Everyone treats each other the same, no one thinks they’re better than anyone else, everyone is pulling on the rope the same direction," he said. "We don’t talk about it. We just go out there and trust the process, trust the work we’ve put in up to this point, trust the process we’ve put in place and you’ll be fine. Last year is old news, this is a new team with a new attitude."
Sumption said he thinks this year's team has done a good job of putting last season's state tournament behind it.
"I think as a team we just focus ahead. I know we had a good year last year and it kind of fell apart, but this year we’ve been steady and really good in big games," he said. "We’ll be okay even if we go to Pierre and fall down for a few innings, we’ll be able to finish strongly."