First round games hadn’t been kind to Winner/Colome.
The Pheasants were defeated by Wagner in the opening round of this year’s District 5B tourney, while they were also eliminated by Larchwood (Iowa) in their 2018 first round contest.
On Wednesday, Winner/Colome avoided another upset and edged the Lennox Only One Alpacas 3-0 in Game 1 of the South Dakota Class B state amateur baseball tournament at Cadwell Park.
“We are just excited to make it out of the first round,” Winner/Colome pitcher Connor Hopkins said. “It was a rough year last year. We were trying to blank that.”
With some strong defense backing him up, Hopkins blanked Lennox to move onto the second round. Winner/Colome (16-4) will play Corsica-Stickney or Wynot (Nebraska) at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday.
On Wednesday, Hopkins pitched a four-hit shutout and struck out 11 batters to power the Pheasants. He issued five walks through 131 pitches.
“The fastball was working early and as the innings went on, I trusted the ‘D’ and they put some good barrels on it,” Hopkins said. “But my guys were just there.”
In the 5th inning, Winner/Colome’s Zach Harter helped Hopkins preserve a 2-0 lead. Lennox’s Justin Reilly laced a shot to deep left field with two runners on base, but Harter made a nice catch for the second out. In the seventh, Parkston pick-up player Jeff Harris snagged a fly ball in shallow center field for the third out.
“They were huge out there,” Hopkins said. “That was my biggest thing. I usually struggle getting around the zone, but you really have to trust the guys behind you.”
After Winner/Colome’s Reed Harter scored from third base on a throwing error in the first inning, the game went scoreless for three straight innings. In the 5th inning, Reed Harter hit a double and Austin Calhoon brought him home with an RBI single and a 2-0 lead. In the 8th inning, the Pheasants added an insurance run on a Derek Graesser squeeze bunt to plate Dillon Lambley from third base.
“Pitching with a lead is always nice,” Hopkins said. “One run is legit just a double and a single away. It can happen in the blink of an eye. So just adding another run on there was big and the run in the eighth solidified it.”
But other than that, Winner/Colome’s potent offense was held in check. The Pheasants finished with just five hits. Lambley had two hits. Harris also had a hit.
Lennox starter Brock Anderson struck out four batters, scattered four hits and gave up two earned runs in his five-inning start for the Alpacas (5-17).
Despite the losing record, the Pheasants weren’t overlooking Lennox.
“It doesn’t matter,” Winner/Colome manager Kevin Graesser. “Everybody has good pitchers. They all have one, two or three good pitchers. We are going to see them all no matter. So you just have to be ready to play ball and fortunately we ended on the good end.”
Now the Pheasants will have four days off before their next game.
“This is the advantage of playing at the beginning of the tournament,” Kevin Graesser said. “Hopefully we can take advantage of that.”