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State Legion preview: How all eight teams stack up

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The top eight Class A American Legion baseball teams are set to descend on Cadwell Park for the state tournament, beginning today and running through Tuesday.

Defending state champion Rapid City faces Yankton to begin play at 10 a.m., followed by Pierre and Renner at approximately 12:30 p.m. In the second session, Brandon Valley and Watertown square off at 5 p.m. and Mitchell plays Harrisburg in the nightcap. The tournament is a double-elimination format.

Here is a look at each team in the tournament:

Brandon Valley Post 131 (28-17)

Brandon Valley could have one of the more exciting first round matchups after splitting a pair of one-run games with Watertown on July 16, as the teams combined for a total of 20 runs apiece.

Joe Kolbeck hit a home run that was the deciding run in a 12-11 win over Watertown and he has been hot all season. Kolbeck is hitting .422 this season, with five home runs and 32 RBIs.

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Jaxon Haase is hitting a team-best .447, while Thomas Scholten is hitting .357 with 29 RBIs.

Brandon Valley also leans on the pitching quintet of Dylan Kirkeby, Hunter Marso, Cole Hupke, Michael Chevalier and Braden Wills, all of whom have logged at least 38 innings and combined for a 4.33 earned run average.

Harrisburg Post 45 (20-26)

Harrisburg is the lone team in the field with a losing record, but got into the tournament after beating Brookings 8-5 in the play-in game on Monday. Prior to that, they were the third-place finisher in Region 2A. They are making their first appearance in the Class A state tournament.

Post 45 has a pair of talented hitters in Jett Olszewski and Tyson Kogel. Oleszewski leads the team with a .350 average and 32 RBIs, while Kogel is right behind him, hitting .341 with 31 RBIs.

Harrisburg will have to offset a 2-12 record against state tournament teams and must have to avenge a 9-0 June 18 loss to Mitchell, its opening-round opponent.

Mitchell Post 18 (32-15)

Mitchell has home field advantage and won 14 of its last 15 games of the season, although Post 18 does have a 6-7 record against teams in the state tournament.

In order to keep its hot streak alive, Mitchell will have to continue to pile on runs. Post 18 averaged 9.2 runs per game during its 15-game run in July. Carson Max and Brady Hawkins lead the offensive attack with 51 RBIs apiece, while eight players have at least 20.

They have also been stout on the mound during that span, surrendering three runs per game, with three shutouts.

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Mitchell’s top four pitchers -- Jackson Sadler, Calvin Hegg, Jared Miller and Brady Hawkins -- have logged at least 44 innings each and combined for a 3.38 ERA, while Brady Brosz and Peyton Nash each have more than 30 innings on the books.

Mitchell has not won a state championship since 1999.

Pierre Post 8 (20-19)

Pierre looks to get back on track in the state tournament after dropping four of its last five games to finish the regular season. Post 8 also hasn’t taken the field since losing to Mitchell 9-4 on July 16 at Cadwell Park.

Despite that, Pierre holds wins over four state tournament teams -- Brandon Valley, Mitchell, Renner and Watertown.

Grey Zabel has been hot for Pierre down the stretch, hitting 9 for 18 and driving in three runs during the last five games of the season.

Post 8 captured the state championship in 2017, which snapped a 49-year drought.

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Rapid City Post 22 (44-13)

The Hardhats are the perennial favorites, entering the tournament as the defending state champions and winners of seven of the last 10 state championships.

Rapid City has a host of offensive threats, led by Matthew Hegre (nine home runs and 55 RBIs), Ryan Bachman (seven home runs and 47 RBIs) and Alex Weaver (46 RBIs). In fact, the Hardhats have six players with at least 30 RBIs.

On the mound, Zach Whitesell is 9-0 with a 1.60 ERA and seven other pitchers that have logged at least 30 innings.

Renner Post 307 (32-22)

The Region 1A champions enter the state tournament having won seven of their last 10 outings. The Royals have a 7-10 record against state tournament teams this season, including an 0-2 against first round opponent Pierre, although both games were played on the opening day of the season.

Renner won its final four games of the season, all by fewer than three runs, while 15 of its 20 games in July were decided four runs or less.

Watertown Post 17 (28-25)

The Region 1A runner-up has doesn’t have any problems putting runs on the board. Watertown is hitting .310 and averages 7.2 runs per game this season, led by Nick Geffre and Nathan Gonnelly.

Geffre is hitting a team-high .382 with 48 RBIs, with four home runs. Meanwhile, Gonnelly swings a heavy bat, leading Post 17 with nine home runs and 54 RBIs with a .677 slugging percentage. Gonnelly is also hitting for average at .355.

Watertown must use its offense to offset a pitching staff that has a 5.13 ERA and a defense that has committed 82 errors.

Yankton Post 12 (24-21)

Yankton enters that state tournament having lost 12 of its last 14 games -- three to Rapid City and three to Brandon Valley -- including a 3-0 loss to Brandon Valley in the Region 2A championship game.

Post 12 does have six players hitting .300 or better, including Ethan Wishon, who leads the team with a .398 average and 33 RBIs. Wishon is one of four players -- including Freeman native Bailey Sage -- that are hitting at least .300 with 20 RBIs.

Yankton has eight pitchers that have logged at least 23 innings, highlighted by Kieran Luellman (2.64 ERA) and Wishon (2.46 ERA).

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