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‘Royals are rolling’: Renner captures elusive state Legion title

Renner Post 307 topped perennial power Rapid City Post 22 for first championship in program history.

Renner Post 307's Andy Moen, from left, Broc Schaefbauer and Daulton Vanderloo roar as they scored three of 307's runs en route to a 6-4 win over Rapid City Post 22 during the Class A American Legion state tournament championship game on Tuesday at Cadwell Park.

Two teams at opposite ends of the spectrum played for the Class A state Legion baseball tournament on Tuesday at Cadwell Park.

Perennial powerhouse Rapid City Post 22 was searching for its 43rd state title, while Renner Post 307 was gunning for its very first championship.

Thanks to a six-run fourth inning, Renner toppled Rapid City 6-4 and captured its first-ever Legion crown. The Royals (37-22) will now play in the Central Regional American Legion tournament on Aug. 7-11 in Sioux Falls.

“I couldn’t be more proud of these guys and the coaches that helped get us here too with our 15/16 coach, our junior Legion coach,” Renner coach Jack Van Leur said. “They do such a great job and they prepared them for this moment right here.”

The moment was seven years in the making. Renner’s first Legion season came in 2012 and it’s been building each season. The Royals have qualified for each of the past three state tournaments, but instead of focusing on winning state, this group emphasized improving each day.

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It worked.

“It wasn’t something that was on our goal sheet (winning state) or anything like that,” Van Leur said. “It was all about getting better and they did it. They played their best baseball this time of year. It was really fun to sit back and watch.”

The Royals were the only team to go undefeated (5-0) at state. The Hardhats (47-15) entered as the favorites, but were stunned in the opening round against Yankton.

“They were probably considered the No. 1 team in the state and them losing that first game, really just boosted our momentum,” tournament MVP Mason Runia said. “Once we started winning, we just kept rolling. We have a saying for Renner, ‘The Royals are rolling.’ So throughout the tournament we just kept saying ‘the Royals are rolling.’ ”

Renner wasn’t the only team in its program to win a state title on Tuesday. The Renner junior Legion team defeated the Rapid City Post 22 Expos twice to claim the junior Legion state championship.

“It’s a great day to be Renner fans,” Runia said.

It’s another state baseball title for the Renner baseball community. The Renner Monarchs have won 21 state amateur baseball titles.

“It’s such a great baseball community and they support us very well,” Van Leur said. “It’s such a baseball town and it’s such a tight community. To bring another state championship to Renner, it means a lot.”

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Hegg receives Big Stick Award

Mitchell’s Calvin Hegg received the Big Stick Award, which is presented to the player in each tournament who achieves the highest batting average. Players must have 12 official at-bats to be eligible.

“We had another teammate Brady Hawkins, too, he was right up there with me,” Hegg said. “We were just kind of battling back and forth. It’s great to leave it all on the field and go out to school (college) knowing you gave it your all.”

Hegg finished 6-for-12 at the plate in the tournament.

“I had big hits in big situations and stuff and that really gets your spirit up and makes you want to hit some more,” Hegg said.

Hegg will attend South Dakota State University in the fall and will just focus on academics. He plans on going for aviation. He likely won’t play baseball in college, but cherished his time with coach Luke Norden and Post 18.

“Coach is just so respectful and everything,” Hegg said. “He treats everyone the exact same. We’ve been playing together for three-four years now. It’s great to leave it all out there.”

Rapid City doesn’t capitalize on opportunities

Rapid City Post 22 out-hit Renner 14-5 on Tuesday, but left 12 runners stranded on base.

“I just defined it as that’s baseball,” Rapid City coach Kelvin Tovre said. “Their hits were timely and ours were not. We left a lot of men on base. We still got 14 hits. It’s not like we had bad at-bats. We just didn’t get the hits when we needed them.”

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Tovre, however, was pleased with the fight from the Hardhats. Rapid City rattled off three straight wins -- one on a walk-off hit and one by two runs -- to stay alive in the tournament.

“That’s the way this team has competed all year,” Tovre said. “Two or three times this year we’ve laid an egg and we’ve come right back and competed immediately for the next 10 or 15 games. So that’s what this team is all about. We just came up short (Tuesday).”

The Hardhats also received the Team Sportsmanship Award.

“I am proud of that,” Tovre said. “We like to think we go about it the right way and that award confirms what we are trying to do.”

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