Rapid City’s Legion teams face off Tuesday at Fitzgerald Stadium
LEGION BASEBALL

Rapid City’s Legion teams face off Tuesday at Fitzgerald Stadium

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Rapid City Post 320 coach Brian Humphries might pull a line or two from the movie Bull Durham to calm his team down a little bit before the Stars take the field at Fitzgerald Stadium to take on the rival team across the parking lot, Rapid City Post 22.

After all, baseball is a game of pitching the ball, hitting the ball and catching to ball. Try to keep it simple and don’t let mistakes build upon themselves if the other team finds itself running the base paths. Problem being, that pesky adrenaline coming from playing a rival can complicate a simple game.

“I don’t know if there’s words or a speech to be able to do that,” Humphries said of trying to calm his team down before tonight’s 7 p.m. game. “As a head coach, it’s one of those things that’s always going to be there, the extra adrenaline of playing a long-time rival.”

With a young lineup, maybe Humphries could simply and channel the three words Crash Davis threw at Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh in their early days as battery mates in Bull Durham: “Relax, all right?”

“A lot of players get so excited it doesn’t allow them to play at their full potential,” Humphries said. “We have to stay within ourselves, not try to do too much and not get too hyped before the game, slow the game down and play the game the way we’ve been taught.”

Over in the third-base dugout, Post 22 coach Kelvin Torve has a core of players who have been in a lot of big-game moments during their time as Hardhats.

Dylan Richey (2-1) will take the mound tonight for Post 22. He has struck out 27 in 13-2/3 innings pitched this season, including a 10-strikeout performance against Sturgis on June 10. Richey has been tough at the plate, too, hitting for a team-best .471 average.

Centerfielder Bransen Kuehl, who didn’t play much during the Hardhats’ four games at a tournament in Omaha, Neb., over the weekend, has hit at a .438 clip and driven in a team-high 17 runs this season. Ryan Bachman, who has seen action at both second and third base, leads the team in home runs with three and owns a .395 batting average. Shortstop Colton Hartford has scored 17 runs and has a .391 average.

Game experience, Torve pointed out, helps calm a team at a time like this.

“It gives you a lot of confidence,” Torve said. “Those guys have all played in big games. The room isn’t too big for them. They don’t get too excited, too amped up. They’re focused and ready to go.”

As a team, Post 22 hits at a .322 clip after 14 games to the .229 batting average Post 320 has posted through 16 games this season.

After getting off an 0-3 start to the season, Humphries said his hitters are beginning to find their groove at the plate.

“We’re getting there,” said Humphries, whose team went 3-2 at Omaha last weekend. “With my experience, hitting always seems to lag behind pitching in terms of timing.

“This last tournament we did a lot of good things, and you always win games with good pitching.”

Humphries will lean on his veteran battery mates – starting pitcher Logan Miller and catcher Wyatt Hunt – to lead the Stars tonight.

“Hopefully, they can set the tone for the whole game,” Humphries said. “Wyatt’s a three-year varsity starter. He's been there and played in 22-320 games. He’s been our foremost leader. Logan’s a returning starting pitcher.”

Miller has allowed five earned runs in 6-1/3 innings on the mound and is 7 for 22 at the plate, a .318 average. Hunt is tied for the team lead in hits with 10 and has driven in seven runs this season.

Lane Darrow, a 15-year-old outfielder, is hitting a team-best .533 in limited action in the outfield. He was slowed during games at Omaha by a hyper-extended knee, but Humphries expects him to play tonight.

Gavyn Dansby has the Stars’ lone homer this season and is hitting at a .357 rate. Tate Walker heads Post 320 in runs scored with nine and RBIs with eight.

“We don’t approach this game any differently. Being a rivalry game, it’s one you want to win,” Torve said. “I don’t take 320 lightly and our team doesn’t, either. We’re going to try and play like Post 22.”

“Baseball is a game where anyone can win at any time,” Humphries said. “Anything is possible. They have more scholarship players, but we have athletes who can win.”

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