Renner Post 307 turned a pitcher’s duel into an offensive masterpiece for one inning.
It turned three hits into six runs, taking advantage of Rapid City Post 22’s mistakes to take extra bases and put themselves in scoring position. That’s all it took for Post 307 to topple the 42-time Legion baseball powerhouse on Tuesday at Cadwell Park, claiming its first Class A Legion baseball state championship, 6-4. The Royals will now play in the Central Regional American Legion tournament on Aug. 7-11 in Sioux Falls.
“It feels really good winning state,” said Mason Runia, who was named the tournament’s MVP. “We started the season out in Rapid 2-6. We were a little shaky here and there. We absolutely run our region and into state, keep that energy going.”
Runia said he was surprised he was named MVP, citing teammates Will Washenberger and Nick Hoekstra, who had a hit, as worthy nominees, too.
However, Runia had the game’s biggest hit during his 2-for-3 day. He wanted to avoid Post 22 (47-15) starter Isaac Arnold’s slider, working him into a fastball count where he drove a 1-1 mislocated fastball into deep left field for a bases-clearing double to give Post 307 (37-22) a 5-0 lead.
“It shocked me,” Renner pitcher Kobe Lien said. “Usually he’s not a long-ball guy. Usually he’s a single, line drive-type of guy. Right off the bat, I knew it was trouble for Rapid.”
Arnold took a no-hitter into the fourth inning, but his command started to waver and Post 307’s hits found the gaps. It led to the first four batters reaching base, including Andy Moen hitting an RBI single. Arnold struck out four and only allowed two hits, but exited after 3.1 innings and gave up five earned runs. Post 307 finished with four hits in the win.
“Second time through the order, we were catching on to what he was throwing,” Runia said about Renner’s big inning which saw it send 11 batters to the plate. “He started getting a little more wild.”
Post 22’s offense had the opposite effect, making solid contact by pulling the ball for 14 hits but being held to four runs. Sam Stukel gave up 10 hits, but held Rapid City to three earned runs in his 4.1-inning start to earn the win.
He handed the ball over to Lien in the fifth inning, with runners on second and third with one out.
“Kobe led our team in innings coming into this weekend, so he’s been in every situation,” Renner coach Jack Van Leur said. “I knew he was going to be great in that situation because he’s been there a million times.”
Lien’s mindset was to “hit my corners” and “throw strikes.” He did that, recording a strikeout and pop out to get out of the jam unscathed.
He had to work out of another jam to end the game, though one he created. After Jace Caldwell and Blake Weaver each singled with one out, Van Leur talked to Lien, though didn’t start warming up a reliever.
“I told Kobe he’s fine and needs to get the ball back in the zone,” Van Leur said. “His body was speeding up, so in that situation you’re not going to take the ball out of your senior’s hand.”
Lien struck out his third batter in the next at-bat, though Post 22 loaded the bases and Colton Hartford singled in a run. However, Lien, who tossed 2.2 innings, forced Drew Messer to hit a routine fly out to center to end the game.
“Holy cow, they can hit,” said Lien, who admitted he was getting nervous in the seventh. “I had to locate a lot of pitches and I executed.”
Caldwell finished with three hits, while Weaver, Ryan Bachman and Matthew Hegre all had a pair of hits.
“It feels amazing,” Lien said. “I’ve never had the opportunity to play in (a state title game), let alone finish one. So it’s really an honor.”