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Pheasants advance to first-ever semifinal appearance

Winner/Colome second baseman Tarrell Bauld attempts to tag out Akron’s Mike Davenport in the first inning of a quarterfinal game Thursday during the Class B state amateur baseball tournament at Sioux Falls Stadium. (Aaron Saunders/Republic)

SIOUX FALLS — For the first time in team history, the Winner/Colome Pheasants are going to be playing in the Class B state amatuer baseball tournament semifinals.

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Behind good pitching, solid defense and timely hitting, the Pheasants defeated the Akron, Iowa, Rebels 4-1 to advance to the semifinals Thursday. Winner/Colome will play at 1 p.m. Saturday.

“This is a pretty big deal for us,” Winner/Colome manager Kevin Graesser said. “We played some pretty good baseball up and down. Going into the semifinals we know we are going to face some good teams, so this is an exciting thing for us.”

Graesser had an ace up his sleeve but didn’t play the card at the tournament until Thursday night.

The ace was his son, Derek Graesser. The Winner/Colome pitcher, who had a 2-1 record heading into the game, threw a complete-game one-hitter to help the Pheasants win.

Through the first four innings, Derek Graesser was able to silence the Akron bats. He did not allow a hit in the first four innings and went on to allow one run on one hit, striking out 10 and walking two.

“I started off a little weak and had a problem with control because I was a little jittery,” Derek Graesser said. “After that I settled down. I have a really good defense behind me this year, so I just kept calm and threw strikes.”

The Pheasants (20-2) got on the board first, scoring a run in the bottom of the second inning. Dane Driscoll led off the inning with a single to right field. Driscoll then stole second and advanced to third on a bad throw by Akron catcher Adam Loutsch. Driscoll scored the first run of the game after Ryan Richey hit an RBI single to right field.

Winner/Colome tacked on two more runs in the fifth inning on a pair of RBI singles from Austin Calhoon and Dillon Lambley. With two outs, Calhoon lined a single to right centerfield, scoring Shane Pajl. Lambley also singled to right field, scoring Calhoon and giving the Pheasants a firm 3-1 lead.

Ryan Richey and J.J. Farner led Winner/Colome at the plate. Both players finished 2-for-4 with one RBI.

“We were selective at the plate and swung at some good pitches,” Farner said. “We strung some things together and had a good team effort all the way around.”

The Rebels finally got on the board in the top of the fifth when they strung a few hits together and push one run across. The run came on a wild pitch from Graesser, which scored Adam Loutsch. Loutsch got things going in the inning with a single up the middle. The hit was also the first of the game for the Rebels. He advanced to third on a ball, which squirted away from Winner/Colome catcher Blake Nielsen.