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Big eighth inning sends Garretson to Class B amateur baseball championship

Garretson posted five runs on two hits in the eighth inning to beat Lennox Only One and reach the Class B state amateur baseball championship for the first time since 2016.

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Garretson second baseman Joey Fitzgerald holds up his glove and looks to the umpire in anticipation of an out call as teammate Jesse Brockhouse and Lennox base runner Cam Wulf look on during a Class B amateur baseball tournament semifinal on Saturday, August 13, 2022, at Cadwell Park.
Landon Dierks / Mitchell Republic
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MITCHELL — The Garretson redemption season continues.

With a 7-2 win over Lennox in the Class B state amateur semifinals on Saturday evening at Cadwell Park, the Blue Jays are one win away from accomplishing their ultimate goal.

For a team that missed the state tournament last year, Garretson has responded well to postseason adversity and every time Lennox scored a run, the Blue Jays had an answer.

In the first inning, Lennox got on the board with singles from Corey Vasquez and Chris Kropenske, giving the Alpacas a 1-0 lead. Garretson responded in the bottom of the second with a single by Joey Fitzgerald and a double by Tayson Swatek that tied the game at one run apiece. Garretson also scored in the fourth inning after an infield error by Lennox, giving the Blue Jays a 2-1 lead they would hold onto for the next three innings.

At the top of the eighth inning, Lennox was finally able to break through and notch singles from Walker Hultgren, Jay Green and Riley Hoffman, to even the score once more. But in the bottom of the eighth, Garretson responded with five runs on two hits, with the help of three crucial Lennox errors.

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“We just managed to stay the course and the biggest thing is putting the ball in play. We’ve always said that,” Garretson manager Austin Vanhove said. “We’re not really known as the best hitting team in the state, but if you put the ball in play when the pressure is on the state tournament, people can get a little more tense. We put the ball in play, they made a couple of mistakes and we executed well.”

Garretson took the five-run lead into the ninth inning, but the Blue Jays understood Lennox's power at the plate and were never comfortable until the final strikeout was called. Lennox had scored six runs or more in each game of the tournament and as Dustin Steckler watched from the mound, he knew there was still a chance the Alpacas would make a run.

“First three games of the tournament Lennox was able to come from behind and score runs late so we were never really comfortable, but we’ve been able to pitch our way out of games this postseason and the defense has carried us,” Steckler said. “Three straight games without an error is something you don’t see a lot of out here.”

Aaron LaBrie was able to record three strikeouts in the closing inning, helping Garretson reach the Class B state tournament championship for the first time since 2019.

Fitzgerald, Nick Bonte and Jesse Brockhouse all had two hits for Garretson while Brockhouse led the team with two RBIs. Steckler pitched 7 ⅓ innings for the Blue Jays, allowing two earned runs on eight hits, while striking out three batters on 106 pitches. LaBrie pitched 1 ⅔ innings, struck out five and surrendered three hits.

As for Lennox, Jay Green went 4-for-5 at the plate and Hultgren added two hits. JD Kirschner pitched six innings and while he struck out five, he also gave up six hits. Brock Anderson and Drew Sweeter pitched one inning each, giving up five runs and two hits combined.

Starting pitcher Steckler said this year’s postseason run feels somewhat familiar to a run in 2016, but it’s an even sweeter feeling after not being a part of the state tournament last year.

“This run has been pretty sweet because it feels just as awesome as that run in 2016, but in a different way,” Steckler said. “Coming off of last season not making the tournament and having most of the same team this year, it’s a sweet feeling and we’ve been determined to get back to this point. We keep playing defense like this and putting pressure on teams, we’ve got a chance to finish it off.”

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Garretson will play the winner between the Dell Rapids Mudcats and the Winner/Colome Pheasants at 2 p.m Sunday, August 14.

Branden is a sports reporter that graduated from Purdue University Northwest with a bachelor's degree in communications and a focus in journalism. He joined the Mitchell Republic in June 2021 and covers prep and collegiate athletics. He was also the lead on the Mitchell Republic Full-Court Press, providing a weekly web-exclusive look at high school basketball throughout all of South Dakota. Branden can be reached at bhull@mitchellrepublic.com and found on Twitter at @bhullreports.
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