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Toland: Picks right on the money

Toland: Picks right on the money

Sunday afternoon at Fitzgerald Stadium, a gentlemen approached me and said, "I was a little skeptical of your predictions!"

He was refering to my pre-tourney "guess" of Rapid City Post 22 beating Aberdeen in the championship game of the state American Legion baseball tournament.

I was skeptical as well, especially after Post 22 dropped that 4-3 decision to defending champion Sioux Falls East in the infamous middle-of-the-night game.

When all of the dust had settled, and there was plenty of that, Post 22 had claimed another state crown, keeping coach Dave Ploof's record of never losing three straight state tournaments intact.

It continues to amaze me that my predictions cause so much consternation among fans. It's only one person's thoughts and not a condemnation on all other teams.

Post-game comments and telephone calls on Monday morning all had the same tone: It was a real team effort for Post 22 to drop the first game and then come back to win five straight.

Ploof's worn-out axiom of combining pitching, hitting and defense proved to be right on the money again.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that Post 22 led the tournament in all three categories when the final statistics were released.

Aaron Reule gave Post 22 a pair of outstanding performances, including that 11-0 blanking of Sioux Falls East; Kirby Morsching beat Parkston and went four innings in the championship game; Mike Robinson would have had a shutout except for his own throwing error; and Eric Brouillette was up to the task with his relief role in the final game.

Ploof again got hitting up-and-down the lineup and the defense sparkled, turning in three double plays in a game twice in the tournament.

Post 22 now heads on to the Central Plains Regional in Mandan, N.D. In my estimation, this could be one of the toughest regions in the nation.

Will Post 22 be heading home next week for the World Series?

It's a long shot, but possible if Ploof's pitching, hitting and defense continues to shine.

State tourney notes

* Post 22's Max Fenske proved the value of having hitting talent up and down the lineup. Fenske was the tournament's Big Stick Award winner (.522 batting average) despite hitting No. 8 in the order.

* Sioux Falls East's Chris Kessinger had a great run of games on the mound, but he was not my choice (no one asked either) for Legion Player of the Year. Tyler Newman, who will play football at the University of Sioux Falls this fall, "carried" the Smittys on his back to the title game.

* One of the most enthusiastic Aberdeen fans was Barb Newman (Tyler's mother), Patty Ploof's sister. Do you suppose baseball enters the conversation when these families are together?

* Post 22 middle infielders Erick Sykora and Josh Nolan had outstanding defensive tournaments (a combined one error in 57 chances). Rapid City turned seven double plays and committed only four errors in six games.

* Danny Ness and Steve Naasz, former Post 22 players, were among the spectators at the state tournament.

* Did you miss Journal photographer Don Polovich at the state tournament? He's on the sidelines after slipping on some steps while on vacation and breaking his ankle. It might be the middle of the football season before he's back at full strength.

* Pitchers Myles Huether and Nick Honke and catcher Justin Sawyer were the only Post 22 players not to make an appearance in the tournament.

* How important was the inning-ending double play in the first inning in the victory over East? It may have been the backbreaker for the defending state champions and the emotional lift needed by Post 22.

* An e-mail from former Post 22 player Mark Ekeland. said, "Congratulations to Dave Ploof! I have been following the results of the tournament on the Web site. The trophy is back where it belongs. I can say that now that I'm not coaching baseball at SDSU. I'm not prejudiced or anything! Good luck to Post 22 in the Regional!"

* Does the entire Legion baseball program in South Dakota need some revision? Send your thoughts along and we'll take a look at some changes which could be made for the good of the entire program.

* Hats off to the Post 22 parents for putting on another outstanding tournament. The tarp crews did their job before the field was even touched with much rain.

This and that

Scott VanDerMillen has been named head girls basketball coach at Mitchell. … Former Rapid Citian Walt Swan points out that Gary Wickham, manager of the Harney Little League baseball team playing in Indianapolis, made it to the same level as a player and his grandfather helped build the current Harney Fields. … River Vale, N.J., takes a 30-0 record into the Northeast Region Legion tourney. … Watertown upset DePere 6-5 in the Wisconsin State Legion championship. … Cheyenne won its fifth straight Wyoming Legion crown. … Rapid City's Greg Harlow has signed to play golf at Utah. … Brandon Claussen, who was born in Rapid City and went to high school at Bennett County, recorded his seventh victory in the Reds' victory over the Cubs. … Jennifer Eichler (Rapid City), Emily Ferrell (Moorcroft) and Cassie Drinkwalter (Chadron) are on the Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team. … Three Rapid City baseball players - Andy Shepherd (Oakland, Mich., U.), Matt Anderson (Lander, N.C., U.) and Ryan Sayles (Northeastern, Colo., JC) - have signed letters of intent for next season. … The Journal's annual Football Preview will be published Aug. 31.

Contact Toland at 394-8430 or at roger.toland@rapidcityjournal.com

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