Aberdeen, S.D. The only bump in the road for the Lawrence Raiders at the Central Plains Regional was they had to stick around for a little more baseball than they wanted.
Needing just one victory on the final day to advance to the American Legion World Series, the Raiders got it Monday night, rebounding from an afternoon loss to Rapid City, S.D., with a convincing 10-2 victory at Fossum Field.
The tournament triumph puts the Raiders in the eight-team World Series field for the first time in program history.
"Not being able to wrap it up in one game was a big disappointment," Raiders coach Troy Wingert said of the 7-6 loss. "It's a big deal to be able to go undefeated in a regional tournament.
"But credit our kids. They came out in the second game and were good and loose, but they had an intensity about them."
Lawrence (37-7) wasted little time in the winner-take-all finale, scoring three quick runs against Rapid City starter Kirby Morsching - a sophomore-to-be at South Dakota State University who entered the game with a perfect 13-0 record.
The Raiders added three more runs in the sixth and scored in six innings altogether.
"I think that was the key to this victory, to be able to set the tone early and punch Rapid City in the mouth, so to speak," Wingert said. "We kind of set the tone from there on out. We were hitting the baseball hard, and we were hitting it all over the yard."
What: Eight regional champions will compete for the Legion national title When: Aug. 18-22 Where: Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Andy Petz finished 3-for-5 with two RBIs, Brian Heere stroked a solo home run as part of a 3-for-5 effort, and Travis Ice drove in two runs.
The offensive support was more than enough for Raiders right-hander Scott Heitshusen, who capped a sterling regional performance with a complete-game eight-hitter. He struck out four while walking just one, and was named the regional MVP after picking up two wins and a save.
"Obviously, that's a very big accomplishment to be named a regional MVP," Wingert said. "There's seven states accounted for up here. To be named a regional MVP is a very big and high accolade for him."
The Raiders won't have much time to celebrate their World Series berth. They'll bus directly from South Dakota to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and will open Series play at 7:30 p.m Friday against Milton, Mass.
That means the celebration with supporters back home will have to wait at least one more week.
"Not just congratulations to us," Wingert said, "but congratulations to our Post, our Legionnaires and out city."