Dimock/Emery Raptors outlast Salem Cubs for amateur tournament quarterfinal berth
Despite a big sixth inning, the Raptors never shook the Cubs, but still managed to advance through to the final eight.
MITCHELL — No matter what Dimock/Emery produced on the scoreboard, Salem wasn’t far behind.
But when the dust settled on the Cadwell Park infield, Dimock/Emery had earned an 8-6 victory over Salem on Tuesday night, advancing the Raptors into the quarterfinal round at the Class B state amateur baseball tournament for the second straight season.
At first, though, runs were coming at a premium.
Former college teammates Phil Johnson and Tyler Earls were dealing from their respective places atop the hill for Dimock/Emery and Salem. Starting his second tournament game in a row after a seven-inning complete game in the first round, Johnson had little trouble his first time through the lineup, sending all nine down in order.
A couple of walks presented some trouble for Earls, but the damage was minimal. The lone early run came courtesy of a double floated into the left-center field gap by Gene Kitchens that scored Jason Schmidt. But despite facing a two-on, no-out scenario, Earls quickly struck out a pair to help himself out of the jam.
But in the fifth inning, a pitcher’s duel started quickly evolving into a frenetic back-and-forth offensive affair.
Salem’s first run came with two outs in the fifth, with a Bobby Koepsell line drive dropping in left field. When Dimock/Emery came up in the home half of the frame, Johnson placed a ball nearly identical to that of Kitchens from the second inning that plated Caleb Crist from second base and restored a one-run lead.
It took just two batters for Salem to reply in the top of the sixth, as Kyle Tuschen drove in Cole Cheeseman from second.
After two runners reached with no outs in the sixth for Dimock/Emery, Earls was chased in favor of pick-up pitcher Logan Larsen (Hartford/Humboldt Wood Ducks). Immediately, Larsen sent a pair of Raptors down on strikes and looked poised to extinguish the fire he inherited. However, Crist had other ideas.
A fellow pick-up player, Crist (Corsica/Stickney) punched a single on the ground between the third baseman and shortstop, scoring two runs. Moments later, Johnson picked up his second and third RBI on a single to center field. Schmidt, facing a different pick-up arm in Dell Rapids PBR’s Trey Randel, who relieved Larsen, also singled to center and pushed across the fifth run of the frame, all with two outs.
“Earls had us baffled. That’s what he does. I’ve seen him do it for years to numerous good teams,” Johnson said of his counterpart. “When we get someone throwing a little harder, that’s more our style. So when the pitching change happened and we got a couple of guys on, we forced them to make plays and some good things happened.”
In line with the night’s trend, Salem strung together an answer in the seventh, as the first three batters all reached, including a second RBI single by Koepsell. The Cubs proceeded to load the bases with one out, where Tuschen delivered a bases-clearing stand up double.
In the eighth, Schmidt nearly found the left-center gap, but a full extension diving catch by Steve Mehlbrech minimized the damage, as only one run scored after tagging up. Salem brought the tying run to the plate in its last gasp, but a lineout back to Schmidt on the mound closed the door on the Cubs’ rally.
“That’s a really good team over there; they hit and play the game really hard,” Johnson said. “They don’t get down on themselves. We got up five runs at one point and they came right back and put four on the board and you’re like, ‘Come on.’ I’m just glad we came out on top.”
Dimock/Emery (13-12) moves on to play the winner between the Dell Rapids Mudcats and Larchwood (Iowa) on Friday. Salem’s season came to an end with an 11-17 record.