By Dan Bechtold, Editor
There is a lot of excitement among members of the Winner/Colome Legion baseball team as the state B tournament comes to Winner. Winner will be the host for five days as iconic Leahy Bowl will be site for the state meet. The state tournament starts Friday, July 21 and runs through Tuesday, July 25.
The grounds crew plus parent volunteers have been working hard to get the field ready. It has been hard since it has been so dry.
“Hosting the state tournament is a cool experience,” said coach Drew Weber. “It is a good opportunity to showcase our baseball community which is one of the top ones in South Dakota,” he said.
The last time Winner hosted the state tournament was in 2011 and 2006. It was in 2006 when Tresh Swedlund was the coach of the Legion team that Winner won the state meet. Jared Donahue was Winner’s leading pitcher in that game. Donahue, who now lives in Hartford, plays for the Winner/Colome amateur baseball team.
As the host team, Winner/Colome has an automatic berth in the state meet. It does not have to go through the region play to earn a spot. Winner/Colome has drawn a team from Region 5B to play in the last game of the day on July 21 at around 7:30 p.m. Region 5 is made up teams from Humboldt, Colton, McCook/Montrose, Tea, Baltic and Aurora.
Last year Winner/Colome played in the state tournament in Webster and Weber says that state experience should help the team.
Milbank is the defending state champion. There are 12 players on the current Winner/Colome roster with 11 Legion members and Dalton Baker was called up from the Junior Legion team.
Weber says the state meet will be a tough tournament. “There are some really good teams in it this year,” he said. Milbank returns their best pitcher and Dell Rapids, who won the high school club ball tournament, is loaded with good players. Even though teams were still playing regional games and the final eight teams were not known at the time of this interview, Weber talked about some of the top teams who could punch their ticket to Winner. Humboldt and McCook are both in the same region and the coach says they both are really good. Weber noted if Vermillion comes out of their region they will be good. Tabor, Parkston and Platte are all in one region.
Weber thinks the three teams making it to state will be whoever comes out of the McCook/Humboldt region, Dell Rapids and Milbank. The coach noted the Royals will have their work cut out for them.
The coach noted pitching will be very important. “You need to have five to six pitches and that is something we feel we have. We feel we have the pitchers to make a run at it.” Weber is quick to point out that Winner/Colome also has to hit the ball and play good defense to win games. Weber says Winner/Colome has played so many tough teams and a lot of Class A teams. “We are hitting the ball better. I feel comfortable with all nine guys batting.”
The coach explained pitching has been up and down. “I trust we will make good pitches and will not walk a lot of players.”
To keep fresh, the Winner/Colome team played in Miller on Friday and Sunday played a double header in Ainsworth, Neb.
The week of the state meet there will be several days of practice. Weber says the team will be ready to go.
“The team is excited. I can’t wait to get going,” added Weber.