Brett Nachtigall/Fall River County Herald
Blake Hanes of Edgemont pitched 2 1/3 innings in relief to earn the win for Hot Springs last week versus Todd County, while striking out two batters and walking only one. At the plate, he also batted 2-for-4 while scoring one run and getting two RBIs.
Stealing of home plate followed by clutch base hit highlight 8-7 win over Todd County
By Brett Nachtigall
HOT SPRINGS – The Hot Springs Bison baseball hosted its first home playoff game in several years, last Wednesday, May 15, at Butler Park, and as things would turn out – it would be one for the ages.
As the No. 2 seed of Region 4, the Bison hosted the third-seed Todd County, and according to Hot Springs head coach Mike Remington, his team couldn’t have scripted a worst first inning as they fell behind by five runs due to a number of errors, walks and timely hits by the visitors in the top half of inning.
By the time Hot Springs got a chance to bat in the bottom of the first inning, the Bison were plagued with a series of misfortunes, which Coach Remington described by saying, “Leadoff hitter walked, got caught stealing, got kicked out. Second batter got called out on strikes, tossed his helmet and he got tossed from the game. Third batter struck out.”
All of the woes his team faced early on in the game was apparently designed to set up one of the more exciting finishes to a baseball game ever played at Butler Park.
After holding Todd County scoreless for the next four innings, the Bison were able to piece together a few runs to pull within one run, 5-6, in the bottom of the seventh and final inning
With the middle of Hot Springs’ lineup due up, Mason Van Bibber led off with a walk and then stole second base. He later advanced to third base on a fielder’s choice and then scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of senior Brand Baker, which tied it up 6-6.
As exciting as it was to see the Bison tie it up and send the game into extra innings, the real fireworks were saved for the eighth inning.
“In the top of the eighth, Todd County scored one run and was threatening to score more but we turned a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning,” Remington described.
Down 6-7, with one out, Steven Wingler and Garrett Heil had back-to-back singles with both players later advancing on a passed ball.
After the next batter struck out, and with Wingler at third base and Heil at second, Jared Stearns came to plate with the Bison down to their last out – not only of the game, but also the season.
Hot Springs head coach Mike Remington then made a gutsy call to send Wingler to the plate and steal home as the Todd County pitcher got set to fire the ball to his catcher. Despite the ball beating Wingler to the plate, his slide eluded the catcher’s tag attempt as his foot slid under the glove and touched home safely.
As the Bison players and fans enthusiastically celebrated tying the game after Wingler’s stealing of home, the team had one more exciting moment yet to come.
The batter, Stearns, then stepped back into the box and put the ‘cherry on top of the sundae’ celebration as he stuck his bat out and snuck a line drive into right field, between the first baseman and the bag. The hit scored Heil from second base and secured a rare playoff win for the Bison.
“This game had everything: poor choices and decisions, unsportsmanlike behavior, bad base running and some character issues that were highly visible,” said Coach Remington. “This was early on in the game. I was not happy at all with some of the players early on.
“We buckled down, took a deep breath, and rallied around one another and began to compete. Every player did their part and it showed in the end. From us turning two double plays, to Mason Van Bibber throwing 108 pitches and his teammate Blake Hanes throwing strikes to get the win. Caleb Maciejewski caught for the first time all year because he was needed and did a great job.
“The biggest moment was by far Jared Stearns coming off of the bench to deliver the biggest hit of the season. For those players and fans that supported us through this entire game and season, I would like to say thank you.”
Van Bibber pitched 5 2/3 innings and earned five stiike outs and two walks. At the plate, he walked three times and scored three runs.
Edgemont’s Blake Hanes pitched 2 1/3 innings with two strike outs and one walk. He was also 2-for-4 at the plate while scoring one run and batting in two.
Steven Wingler was 2-for-4 with one run scored, Garrett Heil was 2-for-3 with three runs scored, while Brand Baker was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a double.
With the victory over Todd County, the Bison advanced to the Region 4 final versus St. Thomas More, which was originally scheduled to be played this past Monday, May 20. Due to weather, that game will be played whenever it can this week in Rapid City, according to Coach Remington.