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Alexandria Angels blank Canova Gang in rematch of last year’s state title

The 1-hour, 59-minute matchup pitted the winners of the past five state titles and two of the strongest amateur baseball fanbases against each other.

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Alexandria's Jed Schmidt pitches against Canova in the first round of the Class B state amateur baseball tournament on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021 at Cadwell Park. (Matt Gade / Mitchell Republic)
Matt Gade

Two championship-level teams collided at Cadwell Park on Friday.

In one of the most highly anticipated first-round games, Alexandria won a rematch of last year’s Class B state amateur baseball championship with a 2-0 win over Canova. The Angels also defeated the Gang, 11-3, in last year’s state championship.

Friday’s 11 a.m. contest had South Dakota’s amateur baseball fans buzzing the moment it was drawn during Sunday’s selection show. The 1-hour, 59-minute matchup pitted the past five state champs and two of the strongest amateur baseball fanbases against each other.

“It’s great,” Alexandria pitcher Jed Schmidt said about the setting and the outcome. “It was the same thing with the championship last year. They packed this place. I grew up in Mitchell. So I grew up coming to this ballpark every single day watching some of these guys even win it. So it’s been great to be out in this atmosphere.”

GALLERY: Alexandria takes on Canova in the first round of the Class B state amateur tournament
Schmidt, who was named last year’s co-MVP of the state tourney, threw a four-hit shutout against the Gang (20-4). The left-hander struck out seven batters and walked one batter on 117 pitches.

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“I let them put the ball on the ground and I got ahead early,” Schmidt said. “Cole (Wenande) and some of the infielders made some great plays. So that definitely got the ball rolling and from there I was able to settle in.”

With a strong defense behind him, Schmidt and the Angels (16-3) shutout Canova for the first time in 47 games. Canova’s previous shutout was a 5-0 defeat against Garretson in the 2019 Class B semifinals.

“It went better than last year did, I guess,” Canova manager/catcher Garrett Gassman said. “I thought we played pretty well. Jed pitched a great game against us again and it’s tough to beat a guy when he’s on like that.”

Alexandria’s bats produced nine hits and a pick-up player was responsible for both its runs. Corsica-Stickney pick-up player Aaron Groeneweg hit an RBI double in the second inning, while he hit a solo homer to left field in the eighth.

“He’s done that his whole career against us,” Alexandria manager/left fielder Peyton Smith said. “He’s just hit and hit and hit. He had the two biggest hits of the day, and if we didn’t have him, we could still be playing right now.”

Groeneweg’s eighth-inning homer over the 340-foot fence came with two outs and gave Alexandria a key insurance run.

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Alexandria's Aaron Groeneweg, a pickup player from Corsica/Stickney, circles the bases after an eighth-inning home run in the first round of the Class B state amateur baseball tournament on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021 at Cadwell Park. (Matt Gade / Mitchell Republic)
Matt Gade

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“(Canova pitcher Trey Krier) didn’t throw me a pitch inside all day and he finally threw me one inside,” Groeneweg said. “I guess I caught it well.”

But in between Groeneweg’s two biggest hits of the game, Schmidt and Krier worked in and out of jams. Their defenses were solid behind them, with Alexandria committing two errors and Canova just one.

“You are not going to find a much cleaner game than that,” Gassman said. “I think we played well enough to win. We just didn’t hit well enough to win when we needed to.”

Canova’s Kendall Gassman finished with two hits, while Justin Miller and Jared Miller had a hit. Krier struck out three batters and walked two batters on 111 pitches.

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Canova's Tim Gassman throws over to first for an out during a game against Alexandria in the first round of the Class B state amateur baseball tournament on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021 at Cadwell Park. (Matt Gade / Mitchell Republic)
Matt Gade

For Alexandria, Adam Durfee recorded a team-high three hits. Jordan Gau finished 2 of 4, while Smith and Michael Schoettmer each had a hit.

The Angels can now put the hyped-up opening game behind them. They will play the winner of Crofton or Volga at 7:30 p.m. Monday.

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“We can’t be satisfied,” Smith said. “It’s only one game. Even though it was the rematch of the championship last year, it’s only one game and the next game is going to be tough.”

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Alexandria shortstop Jordan Gau throws over to first for an out during a game against Canova in the first round of the Class B state amateur baseball tournament on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021 at Cadwell Park. (Matt Gade / Mitchell Republic)
Matt Gade

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