The Rapid City Post 22 Hardhats kept chipping away before riding a game-ending grand slam home run by Connor King to stop the Brookings Bobcats 12-1 in six innings to begin the State A American Legion baseball tournament at Hyde Park in Pierre.
It was a strong overall start of the tournament for the Hardhats, who are seeking to regain their state dominance and fifth state title in six years after being eliminated from last year's state tournament.
"I like where we're at now as a team offensively and defensively," Post 22 manager Kelvin Torve said. "But it is a long tournament and we need to keep it going."
With the win, Post 22, 51-10, will take on Mitchell today at about 4 p.m. MDT. Mitchell defeated Brandon Valley 10-7 in its first game of the tournament.
While it seemed like the Hardhats were in control most of the game on the scoreboard, it took some strong pitching and defense to keep it that way.
Leading 4-0 in the fourth inning, Post 22 turned to its defense when third baseman Matthew Hegre snatched a hard line drive with the bases loaded and no outs, saving at least two runs.
The Hardhats, with Dylan Richey on the mound, would get out of the jam giving up just one run, and they never looked back.
"If that ball gets through, they score two with nobody out and it might be a whole different ballgame," Torve said.
Richey gave up four hits and the one run in 4 1/3 innings, while Holden Jackson came on for 1 2/3 innings of scoreless pitching.
"(Dylan) didn't have his best stuff, but he competed. He got his breaking ball over for strikes and he made big pitches with runners on," Torve said. "I was proud of the effort. He showed a lot of guts out there. Holden Jackson just came in and shut the door. Holdie threw well."
The Hardhats finished with 14 hits, including seven extra-base hits. Shortstop Cooper Bowman led the way with three hits, including a triple, and one RBI. Jack Sorensen had two hits and three RBI, while King and Hegre had two hits each. Mason Messinger also knocked in a pair of runs.
Torve said the Hardhats were relentless at the plate, which was fun to see.
"Their pitcher (Jameson Meyer) is pretty good; he's a 19-year-old, and he had a decent fastball and could occasionally get his breaking ball over," he said. "But we had good at-bats, we had very few wasted at bats. We worked some walks and got some timely hits and kept chipping away, chipping away, chipping away until finally in the sixth we had a big inning."
Post 22 led 6-1 through five innings before closing with six runs in the sixth, capped by the grand slam by King.
The Hardhats will have another matchup with Mitchell today. Post 22 beat Post 18 twice last week in the Region 3A Regionals in Sturgis, 8-3 and 6-2.
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Torve said that Mitchell played well again on Wednesday, so it will be a tough test. He's looking forward to it.
"They have always improved as the season has gone along. They played us tough at regionals and they played Brandon Valley really tough today and beat them. I expect a good ballgame," he said.
In the other first-round games on Wednesday, Renner walked-off Sioux Falls Post 15 East 12-11 n a grand slam home run by Peyton Garbers, and host Pierre defeated Yankton 12-2.
Expos, Shooters to meet again
The Rapid City Post 22 Expos and Post 320 Shooters will meet for the fourth time in about a week, this time in the second round of the Junior State American Legion baseball tournament in Mitchell.
Both teams came away with wins on Wednesday in the first round. The Expos downed Brandon Valley 4-2 and the Shooters toppled Renner 6-1.
The Shooters won the Region 3A tournament at Fitzgerald Stadium last week, downing the Expos twice 6-5 and 5-4. Earlier in the tournament, Post 22 won 4-0.
Against Brandon Valley, the Expos trailed 2-1 before Blake Weaver came through with a two-RBI hit for the one-run lead. Post 22 added one insurance run late as Brayden Burrus came on in relief to shut down Brandon Valley.
Issac Arnold pitched the first five innings for the Expos.
Weaver led the way for Post 22 with three RBI. No complete statistics were made available from tournament officials.
The Shooters, meanwhile, was deadlocked in a 1-1 game with Renner before getting some breathing room with a five-run fourth inning. Tate Walker, J.T. Kostenbauer, Riley Larson and Sam Matthews all had RBI singles in the inning for Post 320.
Kostenbauer, Walker and Larson all had two hits in the 11-hit Shooters attack.
Mitch Sand got the win on the mound, scattering six hits and one run in 5 2/3 innings, while Kostenbauer pitched a scoreless final 1 1/3 innings.
The Expos, 35-18, will meet the Shooters, 23-13, today at 4 p.m. MDT.
In the other first-round games, Watertown beat Sioux Falls Post 15 7-5 and host Mitchell edged Harrisburg 5-4.