‘Looking for the next play:’ Consistent approach yields steady stream of wins for Winner/Colome
The Winner/Colome Pheasants amateur baseball team is out to a 12-1 start to the season, which has them atop the Class B polls.
WINNER, S.D. — Flying high atop the Class B amateur baseball standings, the Winner/Colome Pheasants could not have asked for a much better start to their 2022 season.
With a 12-1 record that featured an 11-game win streak through the opening month and a half, Winner/Colome has rightfully earned its current place at No. 1 in both iterations of the South Dakota amateur baseball polls.
But despite the blazing start, the Pheasants aren’t allowing themselves to feel too comfortable or metaphorically engage the cruise control. No, they’re still trying to accelerate as the season charges toward July.
While impressive, it’s not just the win-loss record that has Winner/Colome looking down on the rest of Class B — it’s the dominant manner in which many of the wins have come.
In 13 games, the Pheasants have failed to score at least 10 runs on only three occasions. Meanwhile, they’ve scored 13 or more runs nine times, which matches the number of double-digit run margins of victory.
As expected with such frequent offensive outbursts, Winner/Colome’s success begins at the plate.
“We’re just hitting the ball like crazy,” said first baseman Oscar Pravecek, who owns a .432 batting average with 16 hits (including two home runs) and 14 RBIs. “One through nine, everyone is hitting.”
Crazy is certainly one way to characterize Winner/Colome’s gaudy offensive numbers through June 23. With a team batting average of .407, the Pheasants have smashed 186 hits — an average of more than 14.3 per game — with 50 of those going for extra bases, including 11 home runs.
On an individual level, two Pheasants with at least 35 at-bats — Chandler Bakley and Austin Richey — have eye-popping averages north of .540 and have combined to drive in 40 runs, while two more — Derek Graesser and Austin Calhoon — own averages above .450.
“The numbers probably speak for themselves with our hitting and pitching,” said center fielder Drew DeMers, whose 22 hits (including a team-high eight doubles) and 16 RBIs both rank third among the Pheasants. “The hitting is something I feel like we’ve always been pretty good at, but this year we’ve got off to a particularly good start and it’s just kind of contagious — that’s sort of how baseball is.”
Not to be outdone, the Pheasants have a fair amount to offer on the mound and in defense, as well.
Led by the 21-plus innings pitched by Connor Hopkins and Graesser, the Winner/Colome pitching staff owns a 1.985 team earned-run average, with opponents batting just .178 against the Pheasants. That has led to nine games of three or fewer runs allowed, including four shutouts. Further, the men on the mound are backed up by a defense that boasts a .955 fielding percentage with just 17 total errors.
“Every team has a weakness, we just have yet to find it right now,” Pravecek said, reflecting on Winner/Colome's exceptional play in all phases.
DeMers identifies a June 2 contest at Dimock/Emery as the Pheasants’ highlight of the season to date, and a game that exemplifies how quickly their bats can change the scope of a contest.
That contest against the Raptors entered the eighth inning with Winner/Colome leading 8-4. By the time six more outs had been recorded against the Pheasants, it was 20-6. At one point in the ninth inning, 11 straight Pheasants had reached safely, as Winner/Colome piled up 11 of their 20 hits for the game across the final two innings.
“If you were to just look at the box score, it’d look like we were in control the whole time,” DeMers explained. “But really it was a close game up until we scored nine runs in the ninth inning and it looked like it was a blowout.
“Once you do that in two or three games, you start to get a certain confidence,” DeMers continued. “Then when you have that confidence, you go into games expecting to do that and that translates into being able to string it together like we have.”
But with the state amateur tournament still more than a month out, the focus in the Winner/Colome dugout is to keep a consistent approach, knowing that there will likely be both highs and lows in the weeks ahead. Look no further for an illustration of that concept than this week’s action, which saw the Pheasants drop a 6-3 contest to Alexandria on June 21 for their first loss of the season before bouncing back with a 16-3 walloping of Platte on June 23.
No matter the outcome — be it on a pitch-to-pitch or game-to-game basis — remaining consistent mentally will be crucial to Winner/Colome’s ability to yield equally consistent results through the second half of the season, according to both DeMers and Pravecek.
“We have a lot of experience baseball players out there, so I know that if we do ever run into a slump, I don’t think we’ll lose our heads,” DeMers said. “We’ll just try to recreate what we’ve started this year.”
“We’re just staying competitive, no matter the game, the score, conference or nonconference,” Pravecek added. “... Everyone is just looking for the next play.”