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Legion baseball: Season starts fresh for chase to state
Teams approach tourney hopeful to reach potential
By By Justin Wulf
Argus Leader Media

July 23. 2013 9:57AM
Typically, there are two attitudes when region tournament baseball comes around: keep the momentum rolling or take advantage of a clean slate.

Of course, those perspectives hinge on what kind of regular season a team put together, but with postseason Legion baseball beginning today, everyone’s chasing a state tournament berth.

Both Post 15 squads begin that pursuit today in the Region 2A tournament with fourth-seeded East opening the tourney at 11 a.m. against fifth-seeded Yankton at Harmodon Park.

East (19-29) won both games against Yankton during the season, with the wins coming when the Sioux Falls squad was struggling in the field and trying to get off the ground. East has seemingly turned a corner in recent weeks, though it hasn’t resulted in an abundance of wins.

“It hasn’t translated into an eight- or nine-game winning streak, but we’re certainly playing better than we were earlier this season,” said East coach Chris Janisch, who will start Cason Heier (3-0, 3.50 ERA) today.

Yankton (15-18) has also found a rhythm, making it to the quarterfinals of the Gopher Classic and notching wins over Post 15 West and Brookings the last two weeks.

“They’re not going to mash it by any means, but they’re a team that’s going to play small ball – they’re going to bunt, they’re going to steal some bases,” said Janisch.
“They’re not going to hurt themselves defensively as well.”

Second-seeded West (28-24) will have its hands full with No. 3-seed Mitchell at 2 p.m. after the two teams split the season series with each side winning handily at home.

That could bode well for West, which is back at the top of its rotation and will throw Austin Serck (5-3, 2.30 ERA). Still, Mitchell (33-12) has been one of the better teams in the state this season, regardless of their region seeding.

“They’re always solid,” said West coach Joel Sage. “They’re a good-hitting team. Their pitchers all have two or three (pitches) they can throw in any count. They’re 33-12 on the year so they know how to win.”

Offensively, the two teams combined for 28 and 24 runs over their meetings this season, though Sage isn’t expecting anything like that today.

“I’ll be shocked if either team scores that many runs in a region game, but you never know,” said the West coach. “We’re throwing Austin Serck – he’s a pretty craft lefty – and hopefully he’ll be able to neutralize some of their big bats.”
Meanwhile, top-seeded Valley Springs (27-18) faces the winner of East and Yankton at 5, needing just two wins to make Thursday’s 4 p.m. championship game and earn a trip to state as the top two teams in Region 1A and 2A punch their ticket.

With the 1-2 punch of Jacob Bruget and Tommy Gardner on the mound, Valley Springs is the region favorite and should also benefit from playing just one game today.

“Two teams are going to have the advantage – Brandon and whoever wins the West-Mitchell game because they’re only going to have to play one game (today),” said Janisch. “But they’ve earned it with what they did during the season.”

Members of Valley Springs Post 131 American Legion team jumps, bumps and smiles after the 6-0 win over Sioux Falls East Thursday night in Valley Springs. Pictured are (from left) Jacob Adams, Nic Peterson, Tommy Gardner and Jared Mulder. The victory solidified the top seed in this week's Region 2A tournament action. Photo by Wilma Kirkeby

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