Game on: Bandits open season next week

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Let there be baseball.

American Legion National headquarters canceled the 2020 season; however, South Dakota will play.

Call it 19U independent baseball.

“As of right now, (all Class A teams are) playing, to my knowledge,” said Brookings coach Rob Hirrschoff.

The uniforms will be the same – with the Legion patch prevalent – but there is no sponsor.

It’s a unique time.

It’s going to be a unique season.

But there will be baseball.

“The biggest thing is extended dugouts, which will be kind of different at each stadium – but give everyone room to keep that 6-foot zone as much as you can,” Hirrschoff said when asked about precautions being taken for COVID-19. “Each team will supply their own baseballs. We were kind of already transitioning towards this, but it works out great this year for each player to just have their own helmet – so there won’t be sharing of helmets. Any shared equipment – which now would just be catchers gear, and we’ll have two sets, or if you share a bat – will be sanitized. Batting gloves are heavily encouraged.

“As far transportation to games, we won’t be using the van. And then we’re not doing any overnights as of right now – that would postseason only if we had to go out west or something.”

What makes things even more unique for the Bandits is the fact they don’t have a home field. Bob Shelden is being renovated.

“The original plan was to use Erv Huether as our temporary home field, but since (SDSU’s) campus is closed down until Aug. 15, we kind of decided we’re going to play games on the road,” Hirrschoff noted. “Mickelson is too small. We didn’t know about the availability of Aurora. With minimal revenue – no concessions, not that many fans – it wasn’t going to be really worth it to (play home games on) a field that isn’t ours.

“So we’re going to do all roadies. The turnaround of it is next year, when Shelden is ready to go, we’re going to have a large majority of home games.

“I’ve been using this phrase a lot, but trying to look at it as half full – we’re actually getting out there and playing … all roadies will be a little bit of a struggle but hopefully people are thankful we’re playing.”

Brookings currently has 33 regular-season games scheduled.

The postseason format changed and is now similar to that of the SDHSAA’s SoDak16 in volleyball and girls’ and boys’ basketball. Except in baseball, the round of 16 is a best-of-three series instead of one game.

There is a wrinkle this year due to social distancing, and the same format will be used in the round of eight to cut the field to four teams. The final four teams will play a double elimination tourney at the highest remaining seed.

In future seasons, state will be a double elimination tourney with eight teams.

June 12-14 – Dakota Classic

June 16 – Sioux Falls East Triangular (Watertown), 1 p.m.

June 19 – Aberdeen, 4 p.m. (DH)

June 23 – Huron, 5 p.m. (DH)

June 27 – Brandon Valley, 5 p.m. (DH)

June 29 – Renner, 5 p.m. (DH)

July 1 – Sioux Falls West, 5 p.m. (DH)

July 2 – Watertown Triangular (TBA), 3:30 p.m.

July 7 – Huron, 5 p.m. (DH)

July 10-12 – Renner Tournament

July 15 – Watertown, 5 p.m. (DH)

July 17 – Yankton, 4 p.m. (DH)

July 20 – Brandon Valley, 5 p.m. (DH)

July 22 – Aberdeen, 4 p.m. (DH)

July 23 – Mitchell, 5 p.m. (DH)

July 27-28 – Region (round of 16)

Aug. 2-3 – Super Region (round of 8)

Aug. 7-9 – State tournament, highest remaining seed


Post 74 went 17-22 last year after qualifying for state in 2018.

“As far as expectations, I usually try to go in with a clean slate or not a lot of expectations versus wait until you get started with practice and not have preconceived thoughts around players,” Hirrschoff noted. “Give them a fresh start each year. And it’s weird – normally at this time of the year we have the spring season to go off of, which is sort of maybe where your base of where to start from. Expectations, I would say, are kind of pushed off to the side a little bit.

“And then, looking back, we didn’t know if we were going to play. But after a couple weeks of practice, I’m really excited. We have a good mix of guys from last year and then guys that I haven’t really coached before. I’ve been happy with what we’re seeing.

“I talked with Gunner Peterson and Jared Tschetter – we think top to bottom from Bombers on up we’ve been pretty happy with the talent in our program. Good numbers at each grade. As far as our spot, I’m happy with what we’re seeing. I think we’re going to get into a scrimmage maybe on Sunday, so that will give us a little bit of a jumping off point. Just going in with no real expectations at the start but I’ve been really happy with what I’ve seen after two weeks.”

Rhett Zelinsky, a William Penn University baseball commit, Parker Rykhus and Cole Mahlum are the most experienced returners.

Zelinsky hit .325 with 11 doubles and 35 RBIs in 39 games a season ago.

Rykhus ended up .248 with 25 RBIs in 34 contests.

Mahlum, a catcher, hit .309 with five doubles, a triple and 10 RBI in 34 games.

Jackson Krogman batted .383 in 24 games.

Caden Wright appeared in 19 games and Daniel Messerli seven in 2019.

Rounding out the 2020 roster are Wes Koenig, Jamison Honkomp, Mason Bebensee, Jake Ammann, Max Kjelden, Joey McMacken, Kyle Bauer and Henry Hammrich.

Jared Tschetter is Hirrschoff’s assistant coach.


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