GROTON – When the American Legion State Class B Baseball Tournament gets underway today in Groton it will feature a variety of title contenders.
Opening round matchups have Tabor vs. Big Stone City at 10 a.m., followed by Winner-Colome vs. Madison. The evening session pits Vermillion vs. Redfield at 5 p.m., followed by Lake Norden-Badger vs. Groton. All games will be livestreamed and can be watched on SD SportScene.
The double-elimination tourney runs through Tuesday.
Redfield coach Tommy Gregg said Vermillion and Tabor may be slight favorites. Redfield has lost just three times and figures to be in the hunt.
“I think we can do some damage,” Gregg said. “That first game is going to be tough. We’ve had teams come through both sides of the bracket before.”
Groton coach Matt Locke believes that anybody can beat anybody on a given day.
“There’s some good baseball teams with some good pitching and some hitters that can square the ball,” Locke said. “Hopefully, everybody comes and plays their best, plays good baseball and hopefully we have some good games. I think we will, I really do.”
Redfield enters the tourney with a 21-3 record, but still needed to win five straight games just to get to the state tournament after losing in the second round of the region. The squad responded in a big way.
“We hadn’t been in that situation in a couple few years. It was all about how the kids responded,” Gregg said. “It was one of those deals, we could have packed it up or we could have just come out and fight for our baseball lives.”
It’s safe to say the squad did the latter.
The team features a balanced attack. Keaton Rohlfs leads the team with 30 hits, followed by Peyton Osborn with 27 and Camden Osborn with 26. Peyton Osborn leads the pitching staff with 32 strikeouts.
“We don’t have guys that are just going to blow you away at the plate, but we’re going to throw strikes and move the ball up and down, in and out, and change speeds,” Gregg said. “We feel like we’re pretty good defensively, fairly athletic. When our lineup is on, 1 through 9 we’re pretty deep.”
Redfield competed in the high school state tourney this spring and the squad has four members who were on the 2018 State B runner-up squad.
Gregg said doing the little things will be crucial for his team to play well this weekend.
“We’re going to have to pitch well, play good defense and just get timely hitting. When you have guys in scoring position or guys on third with one out or less, you have to get them in,” Gregg said. “You have to play well. The margin of error is so small at that level. You have to be ready to go.”
Groton 16-16 on the season, automatically qualified for the tourney by being the host team.
Locke said a key for his squad is to throw strikes and make the plays in the field, something the team has struggled with at times.
“One of our strengths would probably be our hitting, but we have to give teams 21 outs. That’s our problem,” Locke said. “We have to give teams 21 outs and that’s it. We give them too many outs. We’ll have to throw strikes and play defense, and square the ball up and whatever happens happens after that.”
Groton features a balanced pitching attack led by Alex Morris, Chandler Larson and Peyton Johnson.
“It all starts with pitching and defense, always has and always will,” Locke said. “We are a team that can outscore you, but we’re better when we don’t let you score, obviously.”
When asked is there was such a thing as home-field advantage in baseball, Locke responded, “I think there can be. Obviously, we know what we’re playing on and we know the surface. I hope the crowd is there to give us a little boost, too.”
He said the Locke-Karst Field is a great facility and that many have worked hard to prepare it for hosting the state tournament.
“I just hope that everybody comes out and looks at the facility,” Locke said. “We’ve had a lot of volunteers; our baseball foundation and the City of Groton have done a lot of work for the facility. We rank it up there with the top of the state. We’re proud of it. We’re going to try put on a good tournament and hopefully, everything pans out.”
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