1994 STATE TOURNAMENT
The first of Hyde Stadium's five state tournaments within a 10-year span opened on a Saturday with Salem shutting out Vermillion, 7-0; Mitchell (43-16) downing Sioux Falls East, 10-6; Rapid City Post 22 extending a winning streak to 26 games in a row by decimating Sioux Falls West, 22-0; and Pierre (44-11) facing Watertown (38-18) in the nightcap.
Hometown fans were nervous as
Watertown built a 4-0 lead before Post 8 began to rally against Ryan Van Gilder.
Finally Chance Stoeser's 2-run single gave Pierre a permanent lead of 5-4. Dave Gordon's 2-run homer created some breathing room for starter Tom Pier. Brandon Conzemius arrived on the scene in relief to save the game and send Pierre, a 12-8 winner, into the next round against everybody's all-time nemesis.
Sunday's games found Vermillion ousting East, 10-8, and
Watertown sending West home, 21-8. Mitchell rolled on with a 13-3 win over Salem, and
Rapid City shut down Pierre, 13-2.
On Monday Post 22 dealt Mitchell its first loss by 9-3,
and Pierre stayed alive with a 14-4 win over Vermillion.
Watertown eliminated Salem, 11-0.
Tuesday became the tournament's key day because, with Rapid City set to host the Central Plains Regional the following week, both teams in the championship game here (if Rapid were one of them) would advance on.
Rapid City saw to it that Watertown would not advance with a 19-2 demolition.
Then Pierre and Mitchell, with 77 wins between them during excellent regular seasons, played to see who would not only advance to the title game the next day but who would live to play for yet another week in the national regional.
It was Clint Fouts' turn on the mound, and he pitched a career game. Yet the game was so crucial that coach Scott Raue brought in Tyson Lindekugel in relief, and he responded by retiring six of the eight men he faced.
Earlier Mitchell miscues had helped Pierre to a 4-run third inning. Ryan Merriam's bullet base hit shot past the Mitchell right fielder and rolled untouched to the wall to give Post 8 a 5-0 margin.
Kirk Van Roekel unloaded with a 2-run homer for an 8-4 lead, and Derek Larson hit the first home run of his career since Little League days and did so over the deepest part of center field.
The game had still been in doubt when the defensive play of the tournament up to that point was started by ace center fielder Dave Gordon. Mitchell had loaded the bases with nobody out when a fly ball headed in Gordon's direction. He not only caught the ball for one out but fired a cannon shot to third base, nipping the Mitchell runner before he got back to the bag, for an incredible double play. The next batter lofted a fly on which Jason Sulzle made a nice running catch to end the inning. The big Hyde crowd erupted, and from then on Mitchell was done, and Pierre was advancing to the regional, whether as state champ or as runner-up.
The game ended 11-4. For Pierre fans it was a most dramatic win, yet it has faded into dim memory because of what happened the next afternoon.
For Post 8 fans who were there, the game is as vivid as if it happened last week. As radios sent the game into state government offices nearby and around town, the crowd kept growing. People began arriving with nowhere to sit, so they lined up against the Capitol Avenue fence and on the bridge beyond left field foul territory.
The Legion player of the year, Ben Thomas, took the hill for Post 22, the defending national champions of Legion baseball, and it was Justin Gilmore who fate decreed would pitch the game of his life on that particular Wednesday afternoon in August 1994.
The zeroes accumulated on both lines of the scoreboard---0 0 0 0 for Pierre, batting as the visiting team, and 0 0 0 for Rapid City.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Post 8 infield brought the noise of the home crowd to a crescendo when, with Post 22 runners at first and second, a sharp grounder went to Lindekugel at third base. He fired a bullet to Merriam, the first baseman, and Ryno sent it right back like a ping pong ball to Tyson at third to catch the runner trying to advance from second. The 5-3-5 twin-killing sent murmurs through the crowd. Was there really a chance Pierre could force Rapid into a second championship game?
The fifth inning went scoreless for both clubs, and the top of the sixth showed a zero for Post 8. There was no margin for error as Thomas and Gilmore dueled each other.
Rapid City broke through in the bottom of the sixth on a Scott Carlson double, so it was 1-0. The enthusiasm of the seventh inning stretch of the Pierre fans carried over on to the field where Stoeser and Gordon led off the inning with singles.
The count was 1-2 on Lindekugel when he stroked the ball just out of reach of the Post 22 right fielder. It was a double, and Stoeser and Gordon had crossed the plate by the time Tyson reached second. The slugger leaped into the air off the bag and slapped his hands together in a resounding clap.
Gilmore set down Post 22 one-two-three in the bottom of the seventh.
In the next inning there was Gordon batting again for Pierre. He drew a walk, and so did Larson, setting the table for Lindekugel. The big man came through again with a solid single for a 3-1 lead.
But of course Post 22 would not die quietly. Rapid coaxed a one-out single off Gilmore in the
bottom of the eighth, but two outfield flies ended the threat and sent the game into the
But of course Post 22 would not die quietly. Rapid coaxed a one-out single off Gilmore in the bottom of the eighth, but two outfield flies ended the threat and sent the game into the ninth.
Pierre loaded the bases with one out, a golden chance to break things open, but no score resulted. So as the green-and-black clad home club took the field for the bottom of the ninth, there arose a mighty roar to send them on their way.
The heart of the Post 22 batting order was due up. Would one expect anything else? The cautious Gilmore allowed a leadoff walk, bringing the tying run to the plate for Rapid City. Jeremy Wagner launched a deep fly, but it was to center field where nothing got by Gordon in those days. Then Scott Dressler lofted a fly, this one also to Gordon. Two out in the bottom of the ninth, and just like big league fans, the Pierre crowd rose and started yelling and applauding and imploring their team to end it.
The batter was Vic Sosa, and it was shortstop Derek Larson to whom he hit the ground ball. A sure-handed pickup of the ball, a true peg to first to Merriam, and Pierre had won it, 3-1.
As luck would have it, Post 8 had only four hours to enjoy it.
Mark Ellis, who later would be named the tournament's most
valuable player, led off the second championship game at night with a home run. Whoa! Talk
about bursting Pierre's bubble!
Mark Ellis, who later would be named the tournament's most valuable player, led off the second championship game at night with a home run. Whoa! Talk about bursting Pierre's bubble!
Post 22 built a lead of 11-1 before Post 8, refusing to give up against the odds of having to beat Post 22 twice in one day, scored four in the seventh and two in the ninth for a final score of 14-7.
What a day of baseball it had been, and, for that matter, what an exhilarating tournament!
Pierre would go on to more than hold its own at the Central Plains Regional, knocking off the Minnesota and Iowa state champions. Rapid City was eliminated one afternoon, and Pierre lost that night to the eventual regional champs from Omaha.