Damaging Hardhat blows: Rapid City eliminates Dickinson with a pair of crushing innings at the plate
During the middle innings of its Central Plains Regional Tournament elimination game against Rapid City (S.D.) Post 22, the host Dickinson Roughriders played even with the South Dakota state champion.
But after a crippling first inning and a rougher top of the sixth, the Roughriders' 2018 campaign has come to an end.
The Hardhats racked up five runs before recording an out in the opening frame and brought 12 batters to the plate before one was retired in the sixth, capturing a 16-3 victory in six innings on Thursday, August 9 from the Dakota Community Bank & Trust Ballpark.
In a season focused on developing its youth, Dickinson finished with a 11-31 record.
"I just told them 'thank you for your commitment to us this summer,'" Dickinson head coach Stephen Greenwood said the message was after the game. "I gave them a challenge of trying to be more disciplined in their lives because in baseball, in order to be a successful team, you need to be more disciplined. I think that's going to come with age."
Rapid City jumped on Dickinson starting pitcher Nick Deschamp as leadoff hitter Conner King reached with a single while Matthew Hegre followed with a walk. Hardhats shortstop Cooper Bowman delivered the first run of the ballgame, driving in King with an RBI single.
Two batters later, with the bases loaded and no outs, Zach Sumption picked a perfect time to notch his first home run of the season, hammering the ball well over the left field fence for a grand slam.
"The first pitch was an outside fastball, I kind of just watched it. He was kind of struggling to find the zone a little bit," Sumption said. "Then the next pitch was a hanging slider and I just got a good piece on it. ... It's my first home run of the year, so it was a big one, it's pretty cool."
Post 22 pulled a similar feat in the top of the sixth, plating eight runs before recording an out. Sumption again walked to the plate with the bases loaded and flared a fly ball into the opposite field for a two-run double. Alex Weaver entered the batter's box next and connected with a two-run opposite field double of his own.
One day after being held to just two runs on four hits in a loss to Dubuque County, Rapid City finished with 16 runs and 13 knocks on the scoreboard.
"We responded really well," Hardhats head coach Kelvin Torve said. "The first and second inning we played good baseball. The sixth inning we played good baseball. The third, fourth and fifth, we didn't, but we played well enough when we decided to play to win the ball game."
Rapid City's struggles in the middle innings were due in large part by the performance of Colton Jones on the mound, who entered from his center field position in relief of Deschamp in the second.
Despite allowing an RBI double to Jace Caldwell on his first pitch, Jones held the Hardhats in check, tossing a scoreless third, fourth, and fifth.
"I was just trying to hit spots. I did well and my defense did a great job behind me," Jones said. "That's a testament to them back there, you can't ask for much more than that. We got some double plays when we needed them."
Jones was also effective with the bat, as he and Isaac Gjerde started the bottom of the second with back-to-back singles. Gjerde scored Dickinson's first run after Tristen Brunk grounded into a double play. With the bases cleared with two outs, Nathaniel Jilek reached on a bunt single and promptly stole second base. He nearly scored the home team's second run of the frame after a single from Landon Aman, but he was thrown out at home by Weaver patrolling left field.
In the third, Dickinson produced runners on second and third, but Gjerde would pop out to first to end the threat.
"I don't think we've ever had an issue with fight, I feel like we've fought all year," Greenwood said.
Jones, along with Sam England, had their last game in a Roughrider uniform. Walking in his final plate appearance, Jones finished 1-for-2 at the plate while relinquishing two runs on two hits and a walk in 3 ⅓ innings on the hill.
"Colton, I swell up in the eyes a little bit when I think about Colton and Sammy being done. I've had them for a lot of years," Greenwood said. "It's going to be really weird not having a Jones in the baseball program. ... Colton carried himself with class, given me everything I've asked of him and he's going to be surely missed."
After drawing a walk, Jones was lifted for a pinch runner as Greenwood and his teammates where standing and applauding as he jogged back into the dugout.
"It's just great to have your team behind you like that, it shows a lot about the character of everybody," Jones said. "It was great to play with all of these guys. For it to be my last time, it's a honor. It's tough to leave now, but it's just been a great time."
Rapid City Post 22 Hardhats 16, Dickinson Post 3 Roughriders 3
RP 520 009 — 16 13 2
D 010 002 — 3 9 6
RP: Zach Whitesell (5.0), Connor King (1.0) and Tod Stephens. D: Nick Deschamp (1.2), Colton Jones (3.1), Jaren Hugelen (0.0), Kobe Krenz (1.0) and Tristen Brunk.
W—Whitesell. L—Deschamp. HR—RC: Zach Sumption GS.
Highlights: RC: Whitesell 5 IP, 8 H, 0 BB, ER, W; Sumption 2-4, GS, 2B, 6 RBI, 2 R; King 3-4 2B, SB, 3 R, IP, H, 3 BB, ER; Cooper Bowman 3-4 2B, 3 RBI, 3 R; 2 SB. D: Jones 1-2, BB, 3.1 IP, 2 H, BB, 2 ER, 3 K; Hugelen 2-3, Landon Aman 2-3, RBI; Krenz 1-3, IP, 0 H, BB, R (Unearned), K.