Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of Dell Rapids last winning a state Legion baseball championship.
The 2018 edition of the Dells team hopes to end that drought before the streak hits a half-century.
With roster depth and recent stinging losses as motivation, they’ve certainly got a shot at climbing to the top again.
The Legion team in Dell Rapids has a wealth of experience as six players on the roster also played in the Dell Rapids High School baseball team. That team won the state high school championship in 2017 and had a decent shot of repeating this spring.
But an upset loss to Redfield just one game shy of making the tournament doused any chances of a repeat. That loss stings, and the club is using it as motivation this Legion season.
“Yea, there’s definitely some motivation. That was not the way we wanted that season to end. We didn’t play very well, and the kids think about it,,” said Dell Rapids manager Danny Miller. “We were a game away from making the state tournament, but we didn’t have a very good game.”
The loss to Redfield was a stunner, but the boys from Dell Rapids will have a great opportunity to make up for it if they can make the state Legion tournament. That tournament takes place July 27-31 — in Redfield.
The Legion drought almost ended last season. Dell Rapids was clearly a favorite, but a loss to Vermillion ended any chance of a Class B title. Vermillion went on to win the title, and that, too, is something that stays in the head of the Dell Rapids bunch.
“That’s motivation for these guys, too,” said the 42-year old Miller, who also played for the Dell Rapids Legion team. “I think everyone knew whoever won that game was going to eventually win the state title. They’d love to get back to that tournament and win it.”
One area where Dell Rapids will certainly have an advantage is on the pitcher’s mound. Dells has 19-year-old Josh Roemen as their ace, and he also brings a wealth of experience.
Roemen was a member of the high school title team in 2017 and pitched as a freshman at Mount Marty College in Yankton this spring. Because he didn’t turn 19 until early March, he was eligible to play Legion baseball this summer for Dell Rapids.
For as much experience as he gained in playing 30 games for Mount Marty, Roemen said he’s also happy to be back playing baseball this summer in Dell Rapids.
“It’s a lot of fun getting to play with my friends and being around them a lot,” he said. “Playing at Mount Marty was something very special, but it’s not the same as playing with my high school friends that I’ve played since I was 11 years old.”
If Dells does have a chance at finally snapping the drought, it’s going to come from a consistent roster.
Like many Legion or amateur teams around the state, Dell Rapids Legion has had trouble fielding a consistent starting lineup. Be it vacations, football camps or basketball camps, fielding a complete team has been a struggle for Miller.
“We just have to have guys committed to the team, and committed to showing up,” he said. “If we get everybody there, and everybody gets games in, and we get to where we’re playing together, we’ll be good.”
The lack of a consistent roster is most likely part of the reason why Dell Rapids has had such a long drought. Miller said other communities around Dell Rapids have made a commitment to summer baseball, and Dells has fallen behind.
“A lot of teams have pretty dedicated and big Legion schedules,” Miller said. “And us, for whatever reason, kids miss Legion games. During the high school season, kids are all-in. They’re very committed. But not everybody is that way when it comes to summer baseball. It’s unfortunate.”
Although the drought hangs over Dell Rapids Legion baseball, there’s a shot it could end this season. But in the end, it is still simply high school kids playing baseball.
“We don’t really think about it,” Roemen said when asked about the drought. “We know about it, but we just go out and do our stuff, and play baseball.”