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Winner/Colome ready for another run

WINNER/COLOME -- The Winner/Colome amateur baseball team ended the 2013 season on the wrong end of the South Dakota Class B state amateur baseball tournament final, but manager Kevin Graesser said the experience gave his team confidence heading into this year's tournament.

"I don't know if it gave us motivation, but it gave us confidence that we can compete with the best teams in the state," Graesser said about the Pheasants' loss to the Alexandria Angels in the final last year.

The Pheasants start the 2014 Class B tournament against Groton at 8 p.m. today at Cadwell Park in Mitchell. Graesser said he does not know much about the Groton team, but he has tried to schedule as many tough opponents as possible this year to prepare for another state tournament run.

Winner/Colome played some of the top Class B teams in 2014, including defending state champion Alexandria and 2013 state semifinalists Dimock/Emery and the Parkston Mudcats. The Pheasants fell to the Angels and Raptors in the team's first two games of the season and dropped two of three to the Mudcats.

"It's hard for us to get good teams to come over here to play with the travel distance," Graesser said. "But we have played three of the top teams in Class B ball this year and, hopefully, we can build off that."

Graesser said pitching will be the key in the state tournament and that depth in the rotation will play a big part.

"Every team has one good pitcher or they wouldn't be in the state tournament," Graesser said. "To get deeper in the tournament, you have to have arms to compete, especially in the fourth or fifth game."

J.J. Farner and Derek Graesser each pitched two games at state last year and the addition of Drew Weber will help with depth, according to Kevin Graesser. Weber has a team-best 5-0 record heading into the state tournament.

The Pheasants have three batters hitting over .400, with Derek Graesser at .493, Austin Richey at .481 and Austin Calhoon at .424.

Experienced Raptors working for deep run

Dimock/Emery manager Brad Bartscher said his team has been in state tournament situations before and knows what it takes to be successful in that environment.

"A lot of us have been there before and been on this team since 2007," Bartscher said. "The experience helps and everybody is pretty laid back going in."

The Raptors see tough competition throughout the regular season with the three of the last four state champions emerging from the Sunshine League -- Dimock/Emery in 2010, the Parkston Mudcats in 2012 and Alexandria in 2013. Crofton (Neb.) won the title in 2011.

"It shows how tough our league is and you have to compete every night for a win," Bartscher said about the Sunshine League. "The teams top to bottom are very competitive."

The Raptors open with Larchwood (Iowa) in the first round at 1 p.m. Friday. Bartscher said Larchwood is a solid team and its 10-10 record does not reflect how strong it is.