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Smittys fall in 10 innings to Rapid City Post 320

Andrew Richardson, of the Aberdeen Smittys, right, tries to put a tag on Mason Mehlhoff, of Rapid City Post 320, left, along the third base line during Wednesday night’s game at Fossum Field. Mehlhoff was ruled safe on the play. Photo by John Davis taken 7/6/2022

The Aberdeen Smittys have had some memorable comebacks that resulted in walk-off victories at Fossum Field this season and almost pulled off another one Wednesday night, but came up just short.

Aberdeen overcame a 7-1 deficit, forced extra innings with five runs in the bottom of the seventh, but could never get over the hump in a 9-8 10-inning setback to Rapid City Post 320 in American Legion baseball action.

The Smittys, who had 14 hits but also committed six errors, appeared to be in deep trouble before rallying in seventh inning. However, in the end, it wasn’t quite enough.

“I’m really proud of the way that they fought back. They found a way to make it a game, found a way to give us a chance to win,” said Smittys coach Brandon Kusler. “But again earlier in the game, those errors, the mental mistakes that we’re making, that’s giving them, two, three, four runs. That’s when the game is won and lost right there. We’re not even in that situation at the end there if we take care of the situation.”

The Smittys trailed 7-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning, and eventually closed the gape to 8-3 after six frames. However, Aberdeen was unable to mount big innings because of when its hits came.

“I thought offensively tonight we were really good,” Kusler said. “At one point we only had three runs, but had 10 hits. A lot of that was because we were getting hits with two outs which is great to see, but it’s big to get that lead off guy on in an inning. It just kind of changes the whole scope of things in that inning.”

That took place in the seventh when the Smittys not only got the leadoff guy on, they mounted a furious comeback.

Josh Steinwandt started the surge with a run-scoring single, Andrew Richardson plated two more with a single, a run scored on a ground out, and the fifth and game-tying run came across on an error.

That’s when the game changed dramatically for Steinwandt.

“When we scored the tying run, Kusler came in running to the dugout and told me to get loose,” Steinwandt said, “and then two pitches later I was on the mound.”

Steinwandt ended up pitching three strong innings of relief on a moment’s notice.

“I wasn’t really prepared to go on the mound,” Steinwandt said. “I thought I was going to be pitching (Thursday).”

Josh Steinwandt, of the Aberdeen Smittys, right, throws a pitch during Wednesday night’s game against Rapid City Post 320 at Fossum Field. In the background at far left is Casey Vining of the Smittys. Photo by John Davis taken 7/6/2022

Steinwandt stranded two runners on base in the eighth, and another runner at third base in the ninth, before Rapid City eventually plated the go-ahead run in the tenth. Aberdeen moved the tying run to third base in its final at-bat, but could not advance him another 90 feet to extend the contest.

Steinwandt, a super senior, came up big on Senior Night with three hits.

When asked what went through his mind in the tight contest, Steinwandt responded, “For me, just stay calm just, pretend it’s a 0-0 ball game in the first inning and just keep executing pitches, and try to get on base for the guys and keep leading, especially the seventh inning when we were down by five, just keep passing the stick, try not to do too much.”

Jaiden Smith also had three hits for the Smittys, while Casey Vining, Nick Clemens and Richardson each had a pair.

The Smittys will have their final home games of the season when they host Huron in a 5 p.m. doubleheader this evening.

“We have two more big ones (Thursday) and I love that,” Kusler said. “After an emotional loss like this, you just get to strap it up the next day and go take two, hopefully, from a good Huron team. They’ve got some good pitchers, they can hit it a little bit. We have to come ready to play (Thursday) and just turn the page.”

The games will be the final home games in a Smittys uniform for Steinwandt, who talked about some of the things he will remember most about playing for the squad.

“Especially tonight, just the atmosphere,” Steinwandt said. “There was big crowd here tonight, probably the loudest I’ve ever heard it when we scored that tying run.”

Now, Steinwandt would like get a couple of key league victories against Huron and walk off Fossum Field one last time on a positive note.

“There’s been a lot of good memories here,” Steinwandt said.

Rapid City Post 320 210 131 000 1 – 9 8 4

Aberdeen Smittys 000 111 500 0  – 8 14 6

James Rogers, Jett Wetzler (5), Walker Vliestra (7), Brady Fallon (7) and Bryan Roselles; Jaiden Smith, Casey Vining (3), Nick Clemens (6), Andrew Woehl (7), Josh Steinwandt (8) and Andrew Richardson. 2B – Rapid City Post 320, Gavyn Dansby.

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