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After a one year absence, Garretson is back in the state amateur baseball tourney with hopes of a title run

Having its 12-year streak of making the state tournament come to an end in 2021, Garretson has bounced back and returned to the 32-team tournament on a mission to show everyone they’re a team to be reckoned with.

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Action from the Class B state amateur baseball tournament on Wednesday, August 3, 2022, against the Garretson Blue Jays and the Plankinton Bankers at Cadwell Park in Mitchell.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic
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GARRETSON – After what some players on the Garretson Blue Jays roster called a transition year last season, most of the kinks have now been resolved and the team is playing some of its best baseball at the right time of the year.

Garretson was always deemed as a formidable opponent in the Class B state amateur baseball tournament, reaching the semifinal round twice in the past four seasons and even reaching the championship game in 2016.

Missing the state tournament in 2021 after a 12-year stint of at least making it to the first-round of the 32-team tournament did not sit well with the Blue Jays as center fielder Scott Splett said it can be heartbreaking. Garretson managed to turn last year’s misfortunes around with a 17-6 win over Akron, Iowa, on July 24 to clinch a spot in this year’s tournament. In the first-round game against Plankinton on Wednesday, August 3, Garretson had one of its better performances of the season, recording 13 hits in a 13-0 victory.

“It’s heartbreaking when you don’t make the state tournament and we just didn’t play well in the district tournament last year,” Splett said. “This year that did give us extra fuel and incentive to come out, play hard all season and get back to where we were a couple years ago. I feel now we have a great team top to bottom in the batting order along with some great pitching.”

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Action from the Class B state amateur baseball tournament on Wednesday, August 3, 2022 against the Garretson Blue Jays and the Plankinton Bankers at Cadwell Park.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

This season, Splett, along with Dustin Steckler and Brady Bonte have paced the offense while Steckler, Nick Bonte and Aaron Labrie have led the charge on the mound. Despite a balanced attack, one of the big changes to the team has been Austin Vanhove, the team’s first baseman and head coach.

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Bonte, who’s been playing with Garretson for 10 years, said it took some time for the team to adjust to Vanhove’s coaching style, but he’s already become much better at calling games in only his second year and the team is having much more fun this year.

“From last year to this year, I would say the main thing is that we had to start trusting (Austin) Vanhove a little bit, just with him being our head coach,” Bonte said. “The first year we didn’t know how to handle him and he was learning the ropes, but now he’s a little more seasoned in Year 2 and he’s led us the right way.”

With the coaching change, the subtraction of veteran players two years ago and the additions of Labrie and second-year player Joey Fitzgerald, Garretson is now in the round of 16 and set to face Madison on Sunday, August 7 at 5:30 p.m. Vanhove said the team is very confident with the next challenge around the corner and hopes they make another deep run in the state tournament.

“Last year was a transition year for us because we had some guys retire and we had a lot of first-year players,” Vanhove said. “Obviously our team has grown within a year and now we are where we are. We’re hoping we can continue this, keep trusting one another and make a run for it.”

Branden is a sports reporter that graduated from Purdue University Northwest with a bachelor's degree in communications and a focus in journalism. He joined the Mitchell Republic in June 2021 and covers prep and collegiate athletics. He was also the lead on the Mitchell Republic Full-Court Press, providing a weekly web-exclusive look at high school basketball throughout all of South Dakota. Branden can be reached at bhull@mitchellrepublic.com and found on Twitter at @bhullreports.
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