Round One of the battle between the Sioux Falls Post 15 baseball teams went to East in convincing fashion Tuesday, as the defending state champs routed West 12-2 at Harmodon Park in a scheduled nine-inning game that ended by mercy rule in the bottom of the seventh on Connor Schaefbauer's "walk-off" two-run single.
East scored three in the first and just kept hitting, with Schaefbauer going 4-for-4 with two steals and two RBI and Austin Ridl 3-for-4 in support of starter Justin Underwood.
"We were locked in from the first pitch," said East coach Chris Janisch, whose team improved to 12-4 on the season. "We really swung the bats well, and that's kind of been our M.O. We know we're pretty good 1-through-6, we tell the guys at the bottom they have to get on base to turn the lineup over and if we can do that we're going to score lots of runs."
Schaefbauer, a future University of Minnesota shortstop who was also the leading scorer on O'Gorman's state champion basketball team and the quarterback of the football team, led off the bottom of the first with a single and scored on a base hit from Jon Hander. Two batters later Ridl's two-run double made it 3-0, and while West starter Connor Grove settled down, posting three straight zeros from there, he ultimately couldn't hold East back. They got two in the fifth and three in the sixth before West coach Joel Sage went to his bullpen. But a four-run seventh ended it.
Underwood allowed eight hits in seven innings, and while he didn't open the season as one of Janisch's top starters, he's certainly making a case to become one. The East defense was strong behind Underwood Tuesday, and Janisch liked the way his pitcher took advantage of that.
"He pitched really, really well for a first-year guy," Janisch said. "He gave us everything he had and gave our defense a chance to make plays behind him. That keeps us in the game."
West (10-6) looked ready to hang with their rivals early, as they answered East's three-run first with a two-run second on three straight singles by Nick Mimmack, Trevor Hurley and Austin Smith and an RBI groundout by Dusty Haffeman. But they were silent from there.
Sage was complimentary of East's play, but not pleased with that of his own squad.
"They're a great team and they did things well," Sage said of East. "But they made mistakes, too, and we need to make them pay for those. When they're aggressive on the bases we need to be able to throw guys out. We just need to be sharper than we were tonight."
Over the last several years, the East-West rivalry has been a strong one, with both teams typically evenly-matched. That didn't appear to be the case Tuesday, and Sage admitted he hopes his team takes the loss to heart. He clearly expects more from them.
"We're not even in the same league as them right now," Sage said. "When they throw a spot-starter and we throw one of our aces and they clobbers us ... all we can do at that point is get back to work. I hope that lights a fire under our guys. Losing 12-2 to your rival; you hope that pushes you to another level."
As for East, they head to Rapid City to face Post 320 and then participate in the Rich Hinseth Tourney, and the rookie coach is feeling good about his team.
"The guys we've expected to produce have done that so far," Janisch said. "We're excited about the fact that some other guys are stepping up, too. We're happy with where we're at, and we know we're going to continue to get better."
West 020 000 0 - 2 8 2
East 300 023 4 - 12 14 1
Connor Grove, Dylan Schieffer (7) and Kenny Dobberpuhl; Justin Underwood and Brooks Cross.