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The Sturgis Post 33 Titans pose for a team photo following their win in the Sturgis Baseball Rally championship game.
Photo by Tim Potts
The Sturgis Post 33 Titans pose for a team photo following their win in the Sturgis Baseball Rally championship game.

Sturgis Post 33 Grinds Out a Championship Game Win Over Billings


Terry Anderson, KBHB Sports - June 21, 2020

STURGIS, S.D. -- Despite being down 4-0 after the first inning, the Sturgis Post 33 Titans clawed their way back into a tight ballgame to beat Billings Upper Deck Expos 8-7 in eight innings in the championship game of the Sturgis Baseball Rally Tournament.  The Titans finished the tournament unbeaten at 4-0.

Less than 24-hours earlier, the Titans beat Billings 10-5 on Saturday night.  The Post 33 players were back at the field at 6:15am Sunday morning to warm up for their make-up game against Cheyenne.  The early 8am game was scheduled to make up for a game that was rained out on Friday night.  The Titans beat the Coyotes 12-4 to remain undefeated.  The early game was tough for a bunch of teenagers used to sleeping in on the weekends.

“We were pretty tired but we dug deep and we were able to pull it out,” said Titan head coach Dominc Bradford. 

The Titans got some rest in between games, with the first pitch at 4pm for the championship matchup.  The Upper Deck Expos put Post 33 into a hole early with four runs on four hits in the top of the first inning.  Billings pitcher Ethan Peterson was on point early as he held Sturgis to just one run on two hits through two innings.

“(Peterson) did a really nice job keeping us guessing at the plate,” Bradford said.  “He changed his sequences, his timing was different every time and he kept us off balance.”

The Titan hitters made contact but couldn’t seem to keep the ball in play, fouling off pitch after pitch.  Bradford changed tactics and called for his batters to lay down bunts, which put players on base and the Post 33 hitters were able to move them around the diamond.  Sturgis added three runs in the third inning to cut the Billings lead to 5-4.

Both teams scored two runs in the fourth inning and Billings kept a 7-6 lead headed into the fifth.  Bradford brought pitcher Dylan Gillespie into the game in the fifth inning to relieve Gage Murphey with two runners on base.  Billings hitter Gabe Story bunted and made it safely to first.  The bases were loaded with no outs.  Shortstop Keevan Luhman hit a sacrifice fly to center field on the next pitch, which was caught by Thor Sundstrom.  Brad Alexander was on third and he attempted to score on the sacrifice fly but Sundstrom gunned him out at the plate to complete a double play.  Story then attempted a steal on the next pitch but overran second base and was thrown out to end the inning.  That defensive sequence was big, holding Billings scoreless with the bases loaded.

David Anderson led off the top of the sixth and cracked a single and then advanced to second base on the next pitch due to a passed ball by Billings catcher Caleb Staudinger.  Murphey brought in Anderson with an RBI single to tie the game at 7-7.  Neither team scored in the seventh inning and the championship game headed into extra innings.

In the top of the eighth, leadoff hitter Staudinger and Colton Ludwig both hit singles and Billings had runners on first and second.  The next batter, Luhman, popped out to Post 33 first baseman John Fischer.  Then the Sturgis defense came up big with a double play to end the inning.

Gillespie led off the bottom of the eighth and singled off of Billings’s relief pitcher Ethan Boyce.  Boyce struck out Fischer but then loaded the bases by walking two of the next three batters.  Titan center fielder Sundstrom came to the plate with the bases loaded.  Sundstrom was patient and Boyce couldn’t find his spots, walking Sundstrom and allowing Gillespie to cross the plate for an 8-7 extra inning win.

“It was a nice team win,” said Bradford.  “But we have to keep working.  We’re finally starting to play better defense and our bats are still hot, so now we got to keep grinding.”

Gillespie earned the win on the mound for the Titans, facing 14 batters through four innings.  Boyce took the loss for Billings.  The Titans had 14 hits and 13 left on base with Gillespie earning the "Sturgis Subs Player of the Game" honors, going 3-5 at the plate with three singles and three runs scored, including the winning run.  Owen Cass was 2-2 with two runs scored and one RBI for Sturgis.  Staudinger had a monster game for Billings, going 4-4 at the plate with two doubles, two singles and two runs scored. As a team, Billings had 15 hits and 5 left on base.

Sturgis Post 33 is now 16-4 on the season and takes on Spearfish Post 164 at home on Tuesday, June 23 at 7pm at Strong Field.



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