Winner/Colome rallies past STM, wins state tourney trip in extras
WINNER -- The Winner/Colome prep baseball team got past its old rival Tuesday night in dramatic fashion for a second time in 2016, this time with a sweeter reward: a trip to the state baseball tournament.
WINNER - The Winner/Colome prep baseball team got past its old rival Tuesday night in dramatic fashion for a second time in 2016, this time with a sweeter reward: a trip to the state baseball tournament.
For the first time in six years, Winner/Colome will represent Region 4B in the state tournament, after the Royals outlasted three-time defending state champion St. Thomas More 3-2 in eight innings in the region championship game on Tuesday in Winner.
Winner/Colome's Cameron Biggins raced home from third base to score the game-winning run after a passed ball doomed the Cavaliers in the bottom of the eighth inning in front of a large crowd at Leahy Bowl.
Biggins was immediately mobbed by his teammates in a dogpile on home plate, as the Royals booked their state tournament trip. Winner/Colome (14-1) will face Dell Rapids in the opening semifinal at 10 a.m. on Monday in Sioux Falls. West Central and Dakota Valley will meet in the second semifinal and the championship will be decided later that day.
"I saw the passed ball and read it like any other play," Biggins said about scoring the game-winning run. "It was great. (I'm) looking forward to playing in Sioux Falls for the state title."
Reed Harter earned the win in relief of starting pitcher Kelly O'Bryan for the Royals. Winner/Colome head coach Drew Weber credited Harter and Biggins, the team's only seniors, for helping the team pull out the win.
"We got the passed ball and Biggins with his speed sealed the deal for us," Weber said. "What a fun, fun day. These are two of the best teams in the state and this was a big hill to climb just to beat St. Thomas More."
After five scoreless innings - that featured only one hit for each team - St. Thomas More (20-4) took the first lead of the game by scoring two runs on a ground-rule double that hit the left-field foul pole. The Royals immediately responded with two runs in the bottom of sixth inning after Holden Thieman stole third base and scored on a Cavalier error to make the score 2-1. O'Bryan had a two-out RBI hit that scored Phillip Jorgensen from second base to tie the game.
"We knew they were going to come back," St. Thomas More head coach Jeff Pekny said. "We've played these guys for years and it's just been a battle every year. We knew it was going to be tight. We just gave it to them in the eighth (inning)."
The Royals won the prior meeting this season on April 24 in Winner, coming away with 5-4 victory. That win allowed Winner/Colome to host the super-regional round Tuesday.
For O'Bryan, who dueled with St. Thomas More's George Eccarius and kept the Cavaliers off the scoreboard for five innings, booking a trip to the state tournament was "one of the best feelings of my life".
"We've lost this game five years in a row and to get a win is just great," O'Bryan said. "Homefield advantage helps so much and we had an awesome crowd that supported us. This is great."
Winner/Colome defeated Platte-Geddes/Dakota Christian/White Lake/Corsica 5-2 earlier on Tuesday to advance to the region championship. Ty Bolton earned the win and pitched a complete game for Winner/Colome. Weber credited Bolton's performance to help save O'Bryan and Harter for the game against St. Thomas More, which beat Bennett County 12-5.
"We're not done and the boys want to keep going," Weber said. "We just have to play our baseball and we're not going to play anyone better than what we've seen."