30 memories in 10 years, Part X

No. 2: Year of the Bandits. Brookings Post 74 won the 2012 Class A State American Legion Baseball Tournament in Aberdeen – the first title in program history.

It’s starting to get serious.

Here’s No. 2.

We’ll see you again Tuesday.

No. 2: Year of the Bandits

2012

It was a hot and humid Sunday, Aug. 5, in the Hub City.

I was on my way home from a wedding in North Dakota, stopping at Fossum Field in Aberdeen to witness history being made.

Brookings won its first state Legion baseball title.

The Bandits dropped perennial power Rapid City Post 22 in the first game of the day before toppling defending champion Sioux Falls East for the second time in as many days. The score in the championship game ended up 11-10.

Matt Thomas had a memorable day.

The tournament MVP tossed two scoreless innings to earn the save in the victory over Post 15 after throwing a five-hitter in the win over the HardHats.

“I would call it nothing short of a heroic effort,” coach Rob Hirrschoff said after the game. “To do what he did today on short rest – a complete game in itself is huge with how much of a premium there is on keeping pitchers fresh. He did that, and then to come back, I mean, that’s not something I’m going to ask a guy to do.

“… Matt said ‘give me the ball,’ and it’s a nerve-wracking situation when you ask a guy to do that. But those are the types of efforts and things you need to win a tournament like this. Like I said, it’s nerve-wracking but it makes it easier when he says ‘give me the ball.’ That’s not something you can ask a guy to do if he’s not 100 percent into it.

“That shows the type of athlete, pitcher and competitor Matt is.”

Here’s a look back at the key moments late in the final:

Brookings tied the game at 8-all following a three-run sixth inning. Skyler Cary, who led off the frame with a double, scored when Kelby Beste grounded sharply into a double play. Three batters later, Thomas McMacken stepped up with the biggest hit of his young career – a two-run double to the fence in left field.

Matt Pejsa, Riley Bullington and Cary all singled to open the seventh and Post 74 took the lead for good on Thomas’ run-scoring single.

Kelby Beste then made it a three-run game – 11-8 – with a two-run single up the left-field line. Earlier in his at-bat, Beste hit a high fly ball to foul territory in right field; and East’s Jack Gordon intentionally let the ball drop to avoid a sacrifice fly and save a run. Beste made Post 15 pay for the strategic error.

Post 15 took advantage of a pair of throwing errors – which led directly to two runs – in the seventh to get within 11-10.

Thomas took care of the rest. He worked around a two-out single in the eighth and a leadoff single in the ninth. He struck out Jack Gordon and Reid Nachtigal for the first two outs in the final frame before getting leadoff hitter Conner Schaefbauer to fly out to Landon Busch in center to end it.

“After my first start (on Thursday), I got the loss and I just did everything to come back as strong as I could, so I ran and iced a lot,” said Thomas, who also had three hits and an RBI in the title tilt. “I mean, I just trusted my stuff today and let my defense work behind me. I didn’t have many strikeouts so they played really good defense behind me.”

The championship game was interesting, to say the least, as the teams combined for 30 hits and an uncharacteristic 10 errors.

Beste, who was listed as questionable with a knee injury going into the weekend, threw five gutsy innings after catching the first game of the day. He gave up eight runs – seven earned – on 11 hits with two walks and a strikeout.

“If you told me I’d do that before, I couldn’t have believed it,” Beste said about being able to catch and pitch Sunday. “At the beginning of the day, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to catch – I wasn’t sure if I could catch. I did whatever I could to get it loosened up and then just went with it. I changed my stance a little bit as a catcher, but I guess it worked.”

Beste also had a standout day at the plate, adding a two-run double off the fence in left during Brookings’ four-run third inning to finish with four RBIs.

Cary earned the pitching win, allowing two runs – zero earned – on one hit in two innings.

“In a game like this one – an emotional rollercoaster – there were some mistakes by both teams but you’ve just got to stay with it; keep it within shouting distance and hope you can catch a break or get a big hit or whatever the case is,” Hirrschoff added. “Kelby’s hit with the bases loaded was huge, I think that sparked us. … And then Thomas (McMacken’s) hit to tie it with a big two-run double. For a young kid that we brought up, I couldn’t be happier for Thomas. That’s going to show him in his next two or three years here that there’s nobody he can’t hit. There’s no situation he can’t handle and he came up with a big hit for us. Those are the type of things that you need to have happen to win these games.”

Everyone in the stands was a nervous wreck.

And when the final out was made, the emotions began to flow.

It truly was the Year of the Bandits.

Notes

Thomas struck out five and walked a pair versus Post 22, with the lone run going down as unearned. He threw a six-hitter with eight Ks in a 4-2 loss to Post 22 four days prior, allowing just one earned run. … Landon Busch tossed seven-plus innings, allowing four runs on seven hits with nine punchouts, in an 8-4 defeat of East on Saturday. … Brookings opened with a 10-0, seven-inning defeat of Sioux Falls West. Following the loss to Post 22, the Bandits eliminated the host Smittys with a 7-5 triumph on Friday. … Post 74 advanced to the Central Plains Regional in Dickinson, North Dakota. The Bandits fell 7-0 to Papillion (Neb.) in the opening round before bouncing back with a 7-3 defeat of West Fargo. They lost 12-5 to Omaha in an elimination game. … The Brookings Post 74 Bandits concluded the 2012 campaign with a 44-10 record.

ROSTER

• Kelby Beste

• Austin Koenig

• Konner Beste

• Gunner Peterson

• Skyler Cary

• Corey Roach

• Matt Pejsa

• Thomas McMacken

• Riley Bullington

• Landon Busch

• Trevor Puetz

• Matt Thomas

• Carter Roach

• Kyle Krogman

• Garrett Gerstner

• Cody Shepardson

• Jordan Lerdal

• Bat boy Wes Koenig

• Head coach Rob Hirrschoff

• Assistant coach Matt Bowman

• Assistant coach Billy Stitz

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