State amateur tourney: Dominant pitchers headed to mound from District 5BFour teams from District 5B are sending top-notch pitchers to the mound in their first-round games this week.
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic
Four teams from District 5B are sending top-notch pitchers to the mound in their first-round games this week.
The 80th annual state amateur baseball tournament starts today at Mitchell’s Cadwell Park, and the top goal is to win five games in the single-elimination, 32-team, bracket-style tournament.
Dimock/Emery’s Phil Johnson, Alexandria’s Trever Vermeulen, Parkston Mudcats’ Brady Nolz and Parkston Rock Bass’ Tommy Murtha are each starting for their respective teams.
“They’re all very good competitors,” said Dimock/Emery manager Brad Bartscher, whose team plays Larchwood, Iowa, in the first round at 11 a.m. Friday. “They all want the ball in the big moment and they won’t shy away from a big game. No matter what it takes, they’ll get the job done.”
Dimock/Emery (15-14) is two years removed from winning the 2010 state championship when it defeated Crofton, Neb., in Sioux Falls for the title. Last year, Crofton defeated Tabor to win the Class B crown.
Last year, Dimock/Emery lost in the second round to the Dell Rapids Mudcats in stunning fashion. The Raptors were one out from victory but allowed five two-out runs to get knocked out of the tournament.
“It was definitely tough to end our season the way we did last year,” Bartscher said. “I’ve never been a fan of losing. It happened, but we’ve had a nice bounce-back year. We’ve played well when it mattered.”
Johnson is getting the ball for Friday morning’s game and has posted a 9-0 record this year. He has a 0.69 ERA this year with 74 strikeouts.
If Johnson pitches well and Dimock/Emery advances, the last two Class B state champions could meet in a second-round game. The winner of the Dimock/Emery vs. Larchwood games plays the winner between Crofton and Garretson in a highlighted first-round game.
“Crofton should definitely be considered a favorite being the defending champion,” said Alexandria manager Chris Marek.
Alexandria was the Sunshine League and District 5B runner-up to the Parkston Mudcats.
Marek believes either his team or the Mudcats could make a deep run in the tournament. Alexandria (20-5) faces Wessington Springs at 5:30 p.m. Friday.
The team’s ace, Vermeulen, posted a 6-1 record and a 0.63 ERA during the year, including a no-hit game and a one-hitter. He threw 72 innings with 103 strikeouts and allowed only five earned runs all season.
Vermeulen has pitched against strong offensive teams such as the Dell Rapids Mudcats and Dimock/Emery and has won nearly every time he’s stepped on the mound.
His only loss was to the Parkston Mudcats in the opening game of the regular season in May.
“If you’re able to make it to the state tournament, you better throw your best right away,” Marek said, “otherwise, you’re crazy.”
The Parkston Mudcats are undoubtedly throwing their best against Harrisburg, the final game of the first round, starting at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Nolz threw 74 innings this summer and holds a 7-1 record. He has one save, a 1.22 ERA to go along with 79 strikeouts. This is the third consecutive year Nolz is starting in the opening round of the tournament for Parkston, which is 23-4 overall this year.
“If we continue to win, we’ll be able to throw him two or three times,” manager Dave Roth said. “He’s a guy who doesn’t need a whole lot of rest between games.”
Last year, Nolz started in Parkston’s semifinal loss to Tabor, the eventual state runner-up.
“We didn’t hit well that game,” Roth said. “Our pitching kept us in it, but we didn’t get the big hits when we needed.”
The Parkston Rock Bass (13-7) qualified for their first state tournament since 2009. The Rock Bass play Milbank at 11 a.m. Sunday in a first-round game.
Murtha pitched three games this year, earning one win and one save. Murtha was a dominant pitcher before injuring his elbow at the University of Sioux Falls and needing Tommy John surgery.
This season is the first time he’s pitched since the injury.
“He came back slowly and pitched really nice in the first round of the district tournament for us,” Rock Bass manager Dan Jervik said. “I think he’s going to do a real nice job for us.”