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Winner community bounces back to host tourney

WINNER -- In May, the community of Winner wasn't sure if it would be able to host the 13-14 Class A state baseball tournament at the Leahy Bowl, which starts today in Winner. Damage from an April wind storm blew over one of the field's 80-foot light towers and put all baseball action in Winner on hold, including the possibility of hosting this weekend's junior teener state tournament. The tower ended up damaging both the field and stadium and it took a community-wide effort for baseball to be played this summer in Winner.

For John Calhoon, secretary of the Winner Baseball Association, the quick community response helped save this weekend's tournament and all baseball in Winner this summer.

"The community stepped up and contributed," Calhoon said. "It's been a successful season for all of Winner baseball."

Calhoon added they were able to get back on the field by the beginning of June and have played around 50 games at Leahy Bowl so far this summer.

The eight-team tournament with teams from all different regions across the state will start at noon today with Harrisburg Black taking on Parkston. Spearfish against Dell Rapids will follow at 2:30 p.m. and Dakota Valley will play Milbank at 5 p.m. Host team Winner will play Madison Maroon at 7:30 p.m. The tournament will continue on Saturday with games starting at noon and end with the championship game at 5 p.m. Sunday.

"It's pretty special," said Calhoon about the chance for teams to play in a statewide tournament. "I think it's the goal for all teams. Statewide tournaments usually don't happen until high school, so especially for kids this age, it's great for them to get to go to new places."

In order to make the field safe enough for games to resume at Leahy Bowl, $65,000 needed to be raised in order to fix the existing seven original light towers. The money for the renovations was raised under a special project held by Winner Baseball Association Treasurer Glen McCready. The money raised funded projects that included stabilizing and anchoring the foundations of the other seven light towers at the field, as well as installing a temporary replacement for the eighth pole that fell down. Calhoon said ways to raise money to replace the temporary tower with a brand new tower that looks like the other seven are still being discussed.