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Wessington Springs amateur game gets community away from reality

Wessington Springs' Tyler Waddle throws a pitch during an amateur baseball game earlier this season. (Nick McCutcheon/Republic)

WESSINGTON SPRINGS -- In the midst of a chaotic week, an amateur baseball game brought a calmness through Wessington Springs Sunday.

"We were uneasy about whether we should play or not," Owls' pitcher/infielder Mitch McLagan said. "Elton Kaus made an announcement at church Sunday morning that the baseball game was going to happen and it was followed by applause.

"People were excited to get away from reality."

The baseball field was unharmed by last week's tornado and sits about two blocks north off the path of destruction.

The Owls (4-4) hosted Dimock/Emery (15-5) Sunday in a game where between 30 and 50 National Guardsmen were honored by players and spectators. The Raptors also gave $500 to Wessington Springs and hope the donation will lead others to do the same.

"We thought it'd be a great gesture to help those guys out after what they've been through," Dimock/Emery manager Brad Bartscher said. "There's more to life than baseball, so when you get the chance to do that, it feels good."

McLagan, Wessington Springs' head girls basketball and assistant football coach, lost his home in the tornado. He said the sports community has supported the Owls and Wessington Springs through last week's tragedy.

Along with Dimock/Emery, other teams, including a Chamberlain softball team and Four Corners amateur baseball team, are doing what they can to help those who were affected by the tornado.

"You realize how good people really are," said McLagan, whose team plays at Four Corners at 8 p.m. today. "Support is coming from all these places, and we feel very fortunate."

McLagan said Sunday's contest was one of the most fun games he's been a part of during his three years of amateur baseball in Wessington Springs.

"It was just so special," he said. "We had a good crowd and both teams gave so much respect for the National Guard. It was a moment that made you choke up a bit."

McLagan added there were several guardsmen who stayed until the end of the game, and National Guard Specialist Brandon Deffenbaugh, of Pierre, took batting practice after the game concluded.

"All of the Wessington Springs and Dimock/Emery players were shagging the balls that he hit," McLagan said. "It was fun for us. On his last swing, he hit a home run.

"It was neat and capped off the night."

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