With every game at the South Dakota Amateur Baseball Class B Tournament, there's always something on the line.
Each team enters the 32-team, single-elimination tourney knowing it's a win-or-go-home situation. The format isn't all that common in the sport of baseball, but for South Dakota amateur baseball, it's helped the sport thrive.
Since 1991, when the South Dakota Amateur Baseball Association switched to a two-class format, Class B has used a single-elimination format, while the Class A event is an eight-team double-elimination tournament.
"We used to have 16 teams in the state tournament, then we added it to 24 and now we're at 32. That's about half of the teams in the state qualifying for the state tournament," SDABA President Dale Weber said. "We have found that's generated a lot of interest to keep amateur baseball alive and help create new teams."
Weber noted each amateur baseball team has the goal of reaching the state tournament and the move to allow 32 teams qualify gives many teams hope to achieve that goal.
Before 1991, just one state champion was crowned, which included the top Class A team playing the top Class B team in a championship game from 1975-1991.
Already through the tournament's first three days, 10 teams have been eliminated, including District 3B champion Plankinton. The Bankers fell 6-2 to Larchwood (Iowa) on Thursday night. Plankinton manager Ryan Pryor admitted his team failed to play its best baseball against the Diamonds, but added he wouldn't want the state tournament to be anything but single elimination.
"I don't care what draw you get, if you want to win a championship you have to beat the best," Pryor said. "It gives the guys something to play for. Knowing you have to win or go home, that's a big part of this tournament and we love that aspect."
For the past two decades, the 32-team Class B tournament has had plenty of drama because of the high stakes for each game. There can be little margin of error for any team that hopes to win five straight games and earn the championship crown.
"It takes one pitcher. I don't care who you are, you can get humbled pretty quickly in this game with one pitcher," said longtime Dell Rapids PBR player Dale Solberg, who has been a part of six PBR state championship runs. "It's quite an accomplishment to go through the tournament 5-0. Whoever is champion, deserves it and there's no doubt about it."
On the flip side, Solberg, who is nearing the end of his playing career, said he understands and appreciates the accomplishment of just qualifying for the state tournament. Dell Rapids PBR had just one win entering the District 4B tournament, but the team found a way to win two games and earn a trip to Mitchell before falling to Winner/Colome 8-2 in the opening game Wednesday.
"We tried to do our old PBR method and peak at the end of the year," Solberg said. "We are transitioning from the older guys to younger guys. It's always nice to get a taste of Cadwell Park and then you build from there."