Retaining their role as the state's small-town baseball powerhouse, the Alexandria Angels won a second consecutive Class B state amateur baseball championship Sunday at Cadwell Park, knocking off Larchwood, Iowa 4-0 in the title game.
The victory is the Angels' third state crown in five years and the last two championship seasons have raised the bar, with an undefeated season in 2016 and a 27-1 campaign to cap 2017. Sunday was the fifth straight championship game appearance for the Angels, dating back to 2013, which was Alexandria's first state title. Alexandria is the first team to win back-to-back Class B state championships since Vermillion pulled off the feat in 2003 and 2004
The success is the envy of the South Dakota baseball scene, and Angels shortstop Jordan Gau said the secret to the success is that the team has been playing together for a long time and is a close-knit group.
"We've all been together for five or six years and that's kind of the key to this," Gau said. "You get into situations where teams might get down on each other when there's an error or something like that and that just doesn't happen with this team."
That mindset has led to a lot of winning. In the five-year span of making the Class B title game, Alexandria has now 137 wins and 14 losses - good for a winning percentage of almost 91 percent. Four of those seasons ended with three losses or fewer.
"Being here before, we know that we've got to come out and give it our best effort and if we do that, we know we're going to have a great chance," Alexandria pitcher Trever Vermeulen said. "You play with 10 or 12 guys out there every year and they're all great players. You only get better being around guys like this."
Cole Wenande, the Angels' second baseman, said the team tries to block out the success and focus on each game as much as possible. For that reason, he said the team's loss in the regular season to Winner/Colome May 26 to end the team's 34-game win streak wasn't a relief but a chance to re-focus. After that loss, Alexandria won its next 21 games on the road to a state title.
"I think we did a good job of focusing on what we needed to do every time out and that allowed us to have success," Wenande said.
Alexandria's success is now closing in on the state's last great Class B amateur baseball dynasty: Dell Rapids Pabst Blue Ribbon. PBR owned the 1990s and won eight state titles between 1991 and 2002, including three in a row from 1996 to 1998.
The Angels will have a chance to match the three-straight titles next summer. Almost the entire Alexandria roster is young, which means the days of holding up the hardware at season's end probably isn't coming to an end any time soon.
"I'm looking forward to these next few years and keeping this group together and seeing what we can do," Gau said.