Veteran Sturgis Post 33 head coach Wade Huntington said he couldn't have scripted it much better when the Titans got on the bus early Wednesday afternoon in Sturgis to face Rapid City Post 22 at Fitzgerald Stadium.
Wearing throwback blue uniforms older than likely the Titans themselves, Post 33 upset the Hardhats 9-5 for a huge regional win.
The Titans, 6-3, used a big seven-run third inning to take control and never let the Hardhats, who had won 10 of their last 11, back in the game. Gage Murphey was outstanding on the hill, and Tristan Walter came on and got the final seven outs to stun Post 22 and its faithful.
It was thought to be the first win for Sturgis over Post 22 in about 15 years.
"It's huge, it's huge. It's been decades before this has ever happened," said Sturgis center fielder Ridge Inhofer said. "It's just getting started for us boys. We've been putting a lot of work in the off-season and we're really just trying to focus on every out, every play. I think is just the start for us, and it really feels good."
When asked what the win has done for the program, Huntington said the Titans have played well before, but not as consistent as they needed to play to finish the seasons strong.
He said he'll know the answer in a week or so. At the same time, the win is still a huge momentum lift for Sturgis.
"We've been putting a lot of hard work in over in Sturgis for the last half dozen years, without a doubt," he said. "A lot of these boys coming in here had never played on this field. Hopefully they recognize that they are getting the knowledge and skills available to compete with these teams. It is all about confidence, and hopefully this will go a long ways to meeting that for these guys."
Post 22 head coach Kelvin Torve said that Sturgis earned the win and played better than his team did. He said the right team won.
"They made plays and we didn't. They made pitches and we didn't, and they swang the bat and we didn't," Torve said. "The third inning there was no competitive fire at all. We didn't make pitches, we didn't make plays. The third inning was the whole story."
The Titans scratched out a run in each of the first two innings, but the Hardhats answered each time with two runs for a 4-2 lead.
But Post 33 hit the ball as well as it has all season, pounding out eight hits against Hardhat starter True Synhorst, and Rapid City had two costly errors and a passed ball for a run, leading to a shocking 9-4 game.
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Carl Nash, Inhofer and Dylan Gillespie all had RBI singles, while Zach Hess had a two-run double for the Titans in the third.
"We hadn't been having that great of success at the plate, and a majority of that was because we had been out of the strike zone," Huntington said. "I told them to stay in the strike zone more generally and we'll have far more success. The boys for the most part did a good job of that tonight."
Inhofer, who will just be a sophomore next fall at Sturgis Brown High School, had a huge game with four hits and one RBI. Hess added three hits and two RBI, while Gillespie, David Anderson and Nick Anderson all had two hits.
"The next man up, that's what Wade is always telling us," Inhofer said. "Getting that next man up is the responsibility for us. Having those bats keep rolling, those 16 hits, is huge for us."
Murphey, meanwhile, held the Hardhats to seven hits and five runs in 4 2/3 innings, while Walter gave up just two hits in his 2 1/3 innings for the save.
"We got great pitching by Gage Murphey and Tristan Walter really helped out, along with the defense behind them," Inhofer said. "We held together pretty nice."
Even with the big third inning, possibly the key to the win was what happened in the final four innings, Huntington said.
"We talked about in the dugout going out and recognizing, 'Hey, outs are more important than runs," Huntington said. "When you are up by a few runs like that when we have six or seven outs to get, outs are more important, and that's exactly what we did."
Ryan Bachman and Bransen Kuehl had two hits each for Post 22, which fell to 17-8 on the season.
After outscoring Pierre 32-4 Tuesday night in two games, it was an-about face for the Hardhats Wednesday, Torve said.
"We haven't figured it out yet," he said. "Yesterday (Tuesday) we beat Pierre twice (16-2 both games) and we played well. I said that we need to bring it with energy today. We had energy but there was no competitive fire, especially in the third inning, and from then on at the plate we kept making the same mistakes. We made no adjustments.
Both teams will get right back at it this weekend, with the Titans playing in a tournament in Williston, N.D., and the Hardhats in Sioux Falls for a tournament.