Tabor the new face at this year's state B Legion tourney
TABOR -- Seven of the eight teams headed to the Class B state Legion baseball tournament are returners.
The one team that's a newcomer is Tabor.
Still, Tabor coach Ken Ranek's team qualified for state in two of the past three years and many of the players were a part of the spring team that was runner-up at the Class B state high school tournament in May.
Continuing its recent success, the Tabor Legion team (11-7) claimed the Region 4B championship Saturday and plays Milbank at 5 p.m. Friday in Webster in the first round of the double-elimination state tournament.
"The field is pretty experienced," Ranek said. "We're going to have to prove we deserve to be there."
Last year, Corsica represented Region 4B at state despite Tabor heading into the regional with a 20-1 record. This year, Tabor went into the regional with a 7-7 record and beat Corsica in come-from-behind fashion in the championship game.
"That shows it doesn't matter what your record is," Ranek said. "It just shows you have to have to play well at regions. You always have to play your 'A' game when you get to the region tournament."
Ranek said his team's pitching staff is its strength. Led by ace Ross Kortan, a right-hander, Tabor has three key pitchers who've helped the team get back to the year-end tournament. Ranek said Kodi Larson, a left-hander, and Blase Vanecek, a righty, both played a major factor in helping Tabor win its regional. He added Austin Kaul and Scott Wieseler have also logged some mound time. As a team, Tabor holds a 3.20 ERA.
At the plate, Kortan leads the team with a .325 average, Vanecek is at .308, Chase Kortan is at .304, Kaul is at .278 and Larson is hitting .267.
Ranek said defending champion Groton should be the tournament's favorite. Tabor played Groton earlier this year and lost 1-0 in walk-off fashion at a wooden bat tournament.
As far as its first-round opponent, Tabor has never seen Milbank.
"We know absolutely nothing about them," Ranek said. "We've heard they have some pretty decent pitching."
Other first-round games at the Class B state tournament are Winner/Colome vs. Flandreau; McCook/Miner vs. Vermillion; and Groton vs. Webster.