SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The class ‘A’ high school baseball state tournament is here as O’Gorman, Harrisburg, Washington and Brandon Valley head to Sioux Falls Stadium.
#8 SIOUX FALLS O’GORMAN KNIGHTS
Sioux Falls O’Gorman finished the regular season with a 15-14 overall record and an 11-9 league record.
OG has been led by their pitching staff that owns a 3.592 team ERA, led by Reece Arbogasts’ .68 ERA. The team also owns a .258 average, led by Nate Sprenkle who is batting .451.
The Knights picked up a 4-3 win over Mitchell and then an impressive 7-2 win over top-seeded Lincoln.
“We have 15 seniors on this team, so they know what they need to do to win baseball games. They’ve played in many big baseball games in their career,” O’Gorman head coach Dan Hughes said. “So when we got down early in those games, nobody panicked. We knew what we had to do to get back into the game. We had to play our style of baseball and play some good defense.”
The Knights have found their rhythm over the past couple of weeks and coach Hughes feels like his team is peaking at the right time.
“I thought the last couple weeks of the season, we were really starting to get things together. We were playing complete games,” Hughes said. “Pitching was fantastic, defense was fantastic and our hitting really starting coming alive the last couple of weeks.”
O’Gorman’s starting pitchers have been elite this season and that can be credited to the Knights’ talented duo.
“Everybody knows Reece Arbogast, he’s one of the top pitchers in our state and he has been since his freshman or sophomore year of high school, but Sam Stukel, I would put him as another top pitcher in our state as well,” Hughes said. “He’s a competitor. He’s able to keep guys off balance at the plate. He goes out on the mound with the confidence that he is going to get guys out and that he is going to win the game for us.”
The eighth-seeded Knights will now prepare to play Harrisburg, a team that OG only saw once this season.
“They’re just a deep team! They can swing it and they can pitch it and if you can do that in high school baseball, you’re going to have a lot of success,” Hughes said. “Will Simmons, we got a chance to face him once, we threw Reece against them and they were able to beat us 2-0, but I think our guys are eager to see him again and get another chance at him and see what we can do. It’s going to be one of those games where you can hope to scrap across a couple of runs and hope that will be enough.”
#4 HARRISBURG TIGERS
The Harrisburg Tigers concluded the regular season with a 22-6 league record. The Tigers have been led by standout pitcher, Will Simmons, who owns an impressive 0.31 earned run average.
Ben Loos has paced the Tigers at the dish with his .405 batting average.
Harrisburg cruised to a pair of wins over Huron and Brookings in their region tournament.
“It was just a culmination of what we have been working on all year. I don’t think they felt too much pressure because they knew, as a long as they went out and performed up to what our standards have been, I think we usually come out on top of most of those games,” Harrisburg coach Mark Abrahamson said.
Pitching and defense has been the Tigers go to this year as they are allowing their opponents to score just 3.43 runs per league game.
“Especially this year, we have some guys that we knew were going to have some expanded roles,” Abrahamson said. “They were kind of reliever type guys that could come in and go one time through the order and kind of have success that way, but this year we were asking them to go through the order twice, if not three times when they’re coming up, especially if their pitch count is low.”
Harrisburg will be playing in their first ever class ‘A’ state tournament, but the Tigers are still hungry for more.
“I don’t think our players are satisfied yet and I think that’s the best thing that’s come out of this. We had our postgame meeting out of the Brookings game and we celebrated with them,” Abrahamson said. “We told them to have fun because this is the first time that we made the state tournament since we made the leap to class ‘A’. I could see in their faces that they weren’t ready to be done yet.”
The Tigers will meet #8 O’Gorman, though the Knights are more talented than your average eight seed.
“With guys like (Reece) Arbogast or (Sam) Stukel, they’ve got a 1A and a 1B just like we do so, we can expect good pitching and expect some pretty good defense,” Abrahamson said. “You never know with their bats. I mean last time out, we were fortunate to have Will Simmons on the mound and he came away with a no-hitter and 18 strikeouts.”
The Knights and Tigers will cross paths at 12 p.m. (noon).
#7 SIOUX FALLS WASHINGTON WARRIORS
Washington finished 12-10 in league play this season, landing them as the seventh seed in the playoffs.
The Warriors have been led by a pair of talented pitchers in Gage Sharping and Tyler Boyum, while Boyum and Patrick Osborn have helped pace the offense.
The Warriors advance to the state tournament following wins over Sturgis and #2 Roosevelt.
“Hands down probably the most memorable game of our season, so far. We’ve been talking about it all year long, not necessarily playing our best game, in the current moment, but playing our very best game towards the end of the season and they just continue to uproot and come together and play good baseball as the season goes along,” Washington head coach Corey Vasquez said.
Washington has been trending in the right direction over the past few weeks and that can be credited to their ability to grow as a team.
“Honestly, I think it had a lot to do with just learning each other. This is my first in the high school world. It’s very different from where I grew up and where I came from,” Vasqeuz said. “It’s taken a little bit of time to learn a lot about myself, personally, and then with these boys, it’s the first year I’ve had any of these kids and so I know them, I’ve heard their names and what not, but to be able to learn them, learn their weaknesses and learn what they do well and then put it all together and help them to what they need to be helped, it just took a little bit of time.”
Sharping and Boyum have been tremendous on the mound for the Warriors this season, especially as of late.
“We started out real rough and I think a lot of it, coming out of a winter and not being able to throw outside and not being able to throw as much as we wanted, it just took us a little time,” Vasquez said. “Down the back half, we’ve really been preaching strikes and pounding the zone. Making the other team put the ball in play and then our defense coming in and handling things on the defensive side of things.”
Now the Warriors will prepare to play Brandon Valley in the first round.
“Brandon Valley is one of those team where if you allow them to hang around, they will find a way to beat you. They do the little things well. (Coach Jeremy) VanHeel does a fantastic job over at Brandon Valley,” Vasqeuz said. “They’re a team that nobody can ever take lightly, because the second you do, they find a way to beat you. The plan is to go right at them.”
#6 BRANDON VALLEY LYNX
Brandon Valley wrapped up a 12-7 regular season league record.
The Lynx offense scored nearly eight runs per contest this season as they were paced by Joe Kolbeck at the dish as he hit .351 on the season.
A win over Yankton and Pierre advanced the Lynx to the state tournament.
“We probably underperformed a little bit in the first game, but we did what we needed to win,” Brandon Valley head coach Jeremy VanHeel said. “Then we figured out what we needed and once we got going that second game, it was tough to stop us. We were doing everything that we needed to do right.”
Brandon Valley put together a full game performance last Saturday as the Lynx earned a 4-0 win over the Governors.
“When we do the little things and kind of go get it like we should, when we’re bunting and we’re just putting pressure on the defense offensively and our pitchers are grinding and throwing strikes, then I think we can match-up with anybody,” VanHeel said. “It’s just those times where we have to watch out for that one inning that always seems to bite us in our losses.”
The Lynx are allowing less than 3.5 runs per game this season, thanks in large part to their pitching.
“When our pitchers throw strikes and they set the tempo and then our offense follows. When our starting pitchers are on and they just want to go get it, our offense just goes and does the exact same thing,” VanHeel said. “They’re high school kids and as soon as you see that one guy get pumped and he has a huge strikeout in a big inning then it’s like, ‘okay guys, now it’s our turn.’
Brandon Valley will meet a talented Washington team on Saturday. The last time the two teams met, the Warriors earned a walk-off win.
“I mean, they’re coached well by Corey Vasquez and Washington is always tough. We always seem to play good games in the playoffs against them,” VanHeel said. “It always comes down to one run, one hit or one mistake.”
The Lynx and Warriors will cross paths at 2:00 p.m. with the winner advancing to the championship, which is set for 5:00 p.m.
Follow KELOLAND on air and online to see highlights and recap from Saturday’s tournament. @KELOBower and @KELOSweeter will have coverage on Twitter as well.