One year after not fielding a team, Springs starts state tourney runThe re-emergence of amateur baseball in Wessington Springs couldn’t have gone better. For the first time since the 1970s, Wessington Springs failed to field an amateur baseball team last year. Staple members of the team such as Nathan Hainy were forced to join other rosters around the area since the Owls couldn’t get enough players to form a squad.
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic
The re-emergence of amateur baseball in Wessington Springs couldn’t have gone better.
For the first time since the 1970s, Wessington Springs failed to field an amateur baseball team last year. Staple members of the team such as Nathan Hainy were forced to join other rosters around the area since the Owls couldn’t get enough players to form a squad.
“It was a really hard decision not to have a team last year,” said Hainy, a player/manager for the Owls, who are 19-10. “Looking back, I believe it was the right decision. We would have been short on people a lot. … I really forgot how much fun it is to play with the guys and play in front of the crowd in Springs.”
Wessington Springs was able to construct a roster again this summer, and Hainy is back to having fun as an Owl again.
That’s mainly because the team’s having success, so much so that it will be playing in the first round of the Class B state tournament against Alexandria at 5:30 p.m. today at Cadwell Park in Mitchell.
Hainy, who’s played 20 of his 21 years of amateur baseball in Wessington Springs, said the town has been receptive to the team coming back. Last year, Hainy played with Miller-Wessington’s amateur team. He expects a nice crowd at today’s game, the first state tournament game the Owls have played in since losing in the first round of the 2010 tournament to the Parkston Mudcats.
“We’ve been a pretty decent team, and with that we’ve generated some excitement with playing well,” Hainy said. “Our fans have come back in real good numbers.”
Arin Boschee, who played with the Mitchell Mad Dogs last year in the absence of the Owls, is in his 10th year of playing amateur baseball. He’s spent three years in Scotland, one in Mitchell and six with Wessington Springs. He holds a team-high .462 batting average headed into today’s matchup.
“It really wasn’t a surprise that we didn’t have a team last year,” Boschee said. “I kind of saw it coming. I knew we were losing some players and we don’t have many Legion teams in our area.”
This year, the town fielded a Legion team in addition to an amateur team, which will help bulk up the Owls’ roster today. Terrek Butterfield is a Legion player on the postseason roster.
In addition to getting its staple players back, the Owls also picked up some new faces, including
Mitch McLagan, who’s the high school physical education teacher in Wessington Springs and is batting .431 on the season.
McLagan knew the town didn’t have a team last summer, but he felt this year’s squad had potential right away.
“I’ve enjoyed it, mainly because it’s a great group of guys,” he said.
Hainy was worried earlier this spring the town would be unable to have a team for a second straight year, but Huron was unable to construct a roster, which helped out the Owls.
“We found out three of their guys wanted to come over and play for us,” said Hainy, who was the state tournament batting champion in 2008, when he hit .765 as a pick-up player for Miller-Wessington. The average still holds the record for highest among batting champions since 1968 when the award started.
If Wessington Springs, the District 3B runner-up, is looking to extend its season, it’s going to have to beat one of the state’s top teams. Wessington Springs has already played Alexandria twice this year. The series was split with the home team winning each game, Alexandria was the runner-up in the District 5B tournament and has, who many managers will call, the state’s best pitcher in Trever Vermeulen.
Vermeulen (6-1) has struck out more than 100 batters in about 70 innings pitched this summer. He has a side-arm delivery he picked up while pitching as the closer for South Dakota State University’s baseball team.
No problem, Hainy says.
“We know he’s tough,” he said. “We’ve heard what he’s been doing. But we feel like we have a chance against anyone. If we pitch well and play good defense, we should be in it. I’m expecting a low-scoring game.”