The second day of the 40th annual Firecracker American Legion baseball tournament in Rapid City was definitely not kind to the Post 334 baseball club.
After losing a Day 1 walk-off game to Missoula, Montana on June 30, Post 334 was set back by Durango of Las Vegas, then tournament host Post 22 of Rapid City on July 1 in historic Floyd Fitzgerald Stadium, by respective 9-7 and 9-1 scores.
It was the first game, however, that dictated the day’s tempo and solemn mood.
Post 334 seemed to have command of the day’s opening contest with Las Vegas, but with right-hander Roughhouse Ray Wellner peering at two-out and no-runners-on-base scenario in the top of the seventh — maintaining a 6-4 lead — disaster struck like a flash flood.
Wellner had the third batter of the inning at his mercy — no balls and two strikes — and threw a well-crafted, sneaky slider that was good enough to be called strike three, but instead was declared a ball. Moments later the Las Vegas batter doubled and the next batter singled to put runners on second and third — still not a major problem.
But when Wellner worked the No. 4 batter, who had struck out twice and grounded out once, to a one-ball, two-strike out before plunking him with the fourth pitch, the bases were suddenly loaded; the tying run at second and the go-ahead run at first. The next batter — the No. 5 man, who also had been handled by Wellner— shocked the fan base sitting in the concrete basic surrounding the playing field of Rapid City’s famed Floyd Fitzgerald Stadium with a long home run over the right-field fence.
Indeed: a crushing blow of near biblical proportions, a grand salami!
Instead of a two-run win, the Post 334 team was suddenly thrust into a two-run deficit. It became three runs (9-6) two batters later when Las Vegas put together two more hits for one more run. A desperate Post 334 rally in the last of the seventh netted one run, but that was not enough to call it even nor erase the shock of what had happened.
And the stunning effect carried over to the next game that commenced less than 30 minutes later when Post 334 retook the Fitzgerald Stadium field against the Rapid City Hardhats (Post 22).
Catcher Justin Reeves and first baseman Tyler Wojciechowski had first-inning singles, but that was it from a positive perspective. Post 22 scored three runs in the bottom of the first. Jake Dujmovich tripled home Post 334’s only run of the game in the second to cut the deficit at the time to a manageable two runs, 3-1, but Post 22 zoomed away in the fourth by scoring four more runs and added two more in the fourth for a 9-1 advantage and ultimately a 9-1 victory in five innings via the 8-run rule.