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Pheasants exceed expectations

Winner/Colome pitcher Derek Graesser (8) high fives J.D. Farley after getting out of a jam in the seventh inning of the Class B state amateur baseball game against Alexandria Sunday at Sioux Falls Stadium. (Brooke Cersosimo/Republic)

WINNER -- Dillion Lambley had the experience of a lifetime at the Class B state amateur baseball tournament. The first baseman helped a Winner/Colome team reach its first-ever semifinal and championship games over the weekend. "Anytime you can get to this, it's the best baseball in the state," he said after Sunday's championship game, which the Pheasants lost 4-3 to Alexandria. "We have this to remember and use for the future." The success of the team at the state tournament brought in dedicated followers. Victoria Gronlund, of Winner, traveled to watch the championship game Sunday in Sioux Falls. "It was exciting to follow," she said, adding she listened to the local team's games on Winner radio station KWYR during the tournament. "The whole town is just so proud of all of them and everyone in the area is truly behind them." Winner/Colome entered the tournament with a 17-2 record, only losing to Pierre twice during the season. The Pheasants, who went 9-0 in Rosebud-TMT league play, have the smallest league in the state with just three teams. Winner/Colome's league opponents are Martin and Burke/Gregory. "They probably weren't the team pick of the tournament to make it to the championship or win, but they're just a bunch of scrappers that know the game and don't give up," Rod Farley, of Winner, said. "That's why they made it that far." Winner/Colome manager Kevin Graesser said the team had a full pitching staff at the state tournament, which led to its 4-1 outing. The Pheasants got complete games from J.J. Farner, Will Burke and Derek Graesser during the 12-day tournament. Farley and Gronlund said the Pheasants' rush to the state title game is bound to inspire youth baseball teams in the Winner and Colome areas. "Because of the area we live in, baseball is huge in the summer because there aren't a lot of other sports going on," Gronlund said. "The kids live and breathe baseball." This summer, the Winner/Colome Legion team, Colome Class B varsity teeners and 13-14B teener team qualified for the state tournaments. "In doing so well at the amateur tournament, it might give some inspiration to some of the younger players to step up and play in the league," Farley said. "It will just bring back some baseball traditions in the area."

Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.