Rapid City Post 22 has itself set up to avenge the state American Legion championship that got away a year ago.
The Hardhats advanced to the state Legion tournament’s final four Monday with a sweep of parking lot rival Rapid City Post 320, taking the opener 7-4 and following up with a 14-1 win in the nightcap to take the best-of-three, super-regional series from the Stars.
By securing a berth in the final four, Post 22 likely gets a rematch on Friday with Renner, the team that ended the Hardhats’ hopes of a state championship a year ago.
“We want it really bad after last year not getting it done,” said Jake Goble, who threw a three-hitter in Game 2 of the series sweep of Post 320. “We’re coming in hungry. We’re going to bring it and try to destroy some teams.”
Post 320 gave Post 22 all it could handle in the opener.
The Stars jumped out to a 1-0 lead after the top of the first inning when Wyatt Hunt raced home when Logan Miller. Post 320 had another run erased at the plate when J.T. Kostenbauer was thrown at out the plate as he tried to score on a ground ball.
Post 22 came right back, scoring three runs with two outs in its half of the first inning.
“Throwing a guy out at the plate was huge,” Hardhats’ manager Kelvin Torve said. “It gave us energy and momentum. It’s the time of year that you have to make plays.”
Post 22 starter Dylan Richey was stingy on the mound, but Post 320 benefitted from a little loose defense in the fourth inning as the Stars scored twice on throwing errors to pull within 4-3. Then leading 5-4 heading into the bottom of the sixth, Richey helped his own cause with a two-out single to make it a 7-4 ballgame.
“We were having a discussion whether we wanted Dylan to go out there again,” Torve said. “Dylan gets that two-run single. It made the decision for us.”
Bransen Kuehl gave Post 22 an immediate lift in the second game of the night.
The Hardhat junior staked his team to a quick 1-0 lead when he knocked Kostenbauer’s 1-1 pitch over the left-field wall. Post 22 tacked on two more runs in the top of the first when Matt Hegre doubled in Ryan Bachman and Richey, who took over at first base in the nightcap.
“The first game was a little closer than we wanted,” said Kuehl, who added a three-run home run in the third to make it an 8-0 game. “We decided we were going to come out and play the best we could, swinging the bat.”
Coming off a no-hitter against Spearfish Post 164 last week, Goble backed up his team’s offensive support with three innings of no-hit ball before giving up a single to Wyatt Hunt in the bottom of the fourth.
Goble lost his shutout in the fifth inning when Garrett Grismer, who reached on a single, scored after back-to-back singles by James Rogers and Logan Ammerman.
“I had a good feel for all of my pitches and our defense backed me up,” Goble said.
Post 320 ends its season at 17-19 overall and heads into fall baseball with a young roster and a bright future.
“We had only three 18-year-olds in our starting nine tonight,” said Stars manager Brian Humphries, who is taking his team to a tournament in Utah later this week. “I think we’re going to be very talented next year. We might still be very young. The future is bright for the next few years.”
Post 22 (34-10) opens the state American Legion tournament Friday.