Mudcats down Winner/Colome, earn shot at back-to-back amateur titles
Dell Rapids will play Garretson on Sunday for the Class B state championship
MITCHELL — The Dell Rapids Mudcats have earned the right to defend their Class B amateur baseball crown.
In a rematch of the 2021 semifinals, the Mudcats jumped out to an early lead and never allowed Winner/Colome to gain a foothold, marching on to a 7-2 semifinal victory on Saturday night at Cadwell Park.
“Against a team like that, it’s enormous,” said Dell Rapids starting pitcher Kris Regas of the early five-run cushion that wound up as the final margin. “You always want to get a crooked number early because momentum is a real thing, but when you’re facing that lineup and can go in knowing it's OK if I give up a base runner or a run, it makes everything so much easier.”
Though the Dell Rapids offense found success early — unlike in the 2-1 extra-inning grinder from the night before — it was a similarly commanding effort for a Mudcat on the mound. Just as fellow left-handed hurler Dalton Lehnen did in the quarterfinals, Regas went the distance on Saturday, needing 121 pitches to do so against a high-powered Pheasant lineup fresh off a run-rule win in the quarterfinals.
“I threw the kitchen sink at them,” Regas said. “I haven’t really had my curveball all year and I just happened to have it today. That was absolutely huge and then I was constantly changing speeds and trying to change eye level because if they get their swing off, they’re really, really good.”
Much to Regas’ benefit, the Mudcats manufactured offense almost immediately. Following a triple to the right-center field gap by pick-up player Weston Hansen, Lehnen knocked in the first run on a knock to the same part of the park in the first inning.
When the Mudcats came up to start the second, they tacked on three more runs before recording a single out as part of a four-run frame. The sequence, which included a four-pitch walk, hit batsman, RBI single and two-RBI double forced an early pitching change.
Winner/Colome responded with a lone run in the bottom of the second on an Austin Richey single that plated Dillon Lambley, but the Pheasants otherwise struggled to string together offense.
With Derek Graesser inserted on the mound to duel Regas, both sides put up zeroes in the third through seventh frames. When the next breakthrough came, it was on an Austin Calhoon RBI groundout in the bottom of the eighth that brought the Pheasants back within three runs.
However, the comeback hopes were fleeting, as it would be the only run to cross in the inning before Dell Rapids added two insurance runs in the ninth.
For the contest, Dell Rapids had a slim nine to eight edge in hits. The main difference that led to a five-run disparity was the situations those hits came in.
“We just couldn’t string hits together like they did,” Winner/Colome’s Richey said. “We hit a lot of balls hard, put a lot of really good swings on [Regas] had a lot of really good at-bats; we just couldn’t find gaps or holes tonight.”
For Dell Rapids, Hansen and Ty Hoglund each posted two hits. Dalton Allen knocked in a pair of runs, while Hoglund, Lehnen, Chad Hunt and Grant Olson added one apiece. Regas struck out eight to just two walks.
Lambley and Chandler Bakley paced the Pheasants with two hits apiece, while Calhoon and Richey were responsible for pushing the runs across. In relief of starter Tarell Bauld, Graesser struck out five in eight innings of work.
It was the latest sour ending to a title pursuit for the Pheasants, whose season ended with a 22-3 record and a fourth-straight semifinal defeat.
“We’re tired of getting beat in the semis … It leaves a bad taste in your mouth,” Richey said. “Now we have another year to reflect on that and see what we can do to get over this hump and get to championship Sunday.”
The Cornbelt League’s Mudcats will face off with the State Line League’s Garretson Blue Jays in the Class B state title game at 2 p.m. Sunday.
“They’re going to be a lot like us, I think,” Regas said of the title matchup with Garretson. “They’re going to pitch it and play defense, and whoever is the most opportunistic with offensive opportunities is probably going to win.”