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Alexandria claims Class B crown

Perfection. The Alexandria Angels, finishing their season at 28-0 in 2016, are in rare air in South Dakota amateur baseball history after completing an undefeated season with a 7-1 victory over Garretson Sunday at Cadwell Park in the Class B stat...

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Perfection.

The Alexandria Angels, finishing their season at 28-0 in 2016, are in rare air in South Dakota amateur baseball history after completing an undefeated season with a 7-1 victory over Garretson Sunday at Cadwell Park in the Class B state amateur baseball tournament.

It’s believed to be the first undefeated state champion in the modern era of amateur baseball in the state, which dates back to the 1960s and 1970s. The victory is Alexandria’s second state title in four seasons, which the Angels were in the Class B championship game each year.

“Coming into this season, we wanted to play our game and finish the season,” said Angels starting pitcher and tournament MVP Tyson Gau. “We told ourselves to get on them early, which we did.”

And the Angels wasted no time in getting to work on Sunday, using starter Gau to keep the Blue Jays at bay for the first eight innings, and without a hit until the fourth inning. Jordan Gau knocked in Tyson Gau with a two-out double in the first inning to get the Angels going early.

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“If we’ve had a weakness, it’s been our offense,” Alexandria Manager/Catcher Chris Marek said. “Not this season. We knew that if we could give our pitcher a little bit of support, our pitching staff is amazing and they would take us through.”

In the ninth inning, the championship was official with a Jesse Brockhouse fly ball to center field, caught by Jerrod Zens, prompting a confetti of gloves near the pitcher’s mound, where the Angels spilled out of the dugout to dogpile. Alexandria is the first Class B team to compete in four consecutive championship games since Canova made the championship from 1997 to 2000.

“It means a ton. We know we’ve been good for years, we’ve just come up short,” Marek said. “The (championship) loss last year started the fire; I didn’t have to say much. (Being) undefeated wasn’t expected. … Winning today was what was expected and everyone contributed and played their part to make it happen.”

In the third inning, Alexandria tacked on another run when Tyson Gau singled to shortstop Nolan Luhmann, who threw the ball away. Garretson tried to get Gau out at second base, which allowed Peyton Smith, who started the play at second, to come around and score to make it 2-0. Marek added a two-RBI, two-out single in the fifth inning to make it 4-0.

Gau was nearly spotless on the mound, picking up his second victory of the tournament. He threw 101 pitches, scattered five hits and struck out five Blue Jays.

Garretson saw two golden opportunities slip by in the middle innings. In the fourth inning, Garretson left runners on second and third base to end the frame. That included a wild pitch that got away from Alexandria’s Chris Marek and rolled toward the first base dugout but Austin Vanhove wasn’t able to score. In the fifth inning, Garretson got the first two runners of the inning on base but Dustin Steckler hit into a double play to derail the inning.

“I mean, they hit some balls pretty hard but fortunately, they were right at our guys and my defense is amazing,” Gau said. “They bail me out quite a bit.”

Already with a commanding lead, Alexandria put the foot down in the eighth inning, Chris Marek started the inning with a blast to left-center field, a solo home run. John Greicar singled to center field to score Reid Smith and Peyton Smith singled to center to score Greicar two batters later.  

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The Sunday championship was pretty much perfect from an Angels perspective, but the Blue Jays made their mark in the ninth inning. Sam Johnson drilled an RBI double to score Mike Stephensen to make sure the upstarts from Garretson got on the board.

“I mean, hats off to them. An undefeated season, nobody does that,” said Garretson manager Aaron VanDeBerg. “Ten years ago, we started our team and to be here, it’s pretty cool. We didn’t get the result we wanted but to be here on Championship Sunday, that’s an accomplishment for us.”

Current Dakota Wesleyan University pitcher Patrick Whetham, who teamed up with former Tiger Dustin Steckler to form a formidable 1-2 punch for the Blue Jays in the tournament, allowed eight hits, five runs and struck out five in seven innings.

Peyton Smith, Tyson Gau, Jordan Gau, Marek and Greicar each had two hits. Smith added two runs scored, while Marek had a game-high three RBIs.

Marek said the team was well aware of perfection throughout the season but insisted only the championship victory was the goal. He said it became realistic that a 28-0 season could happen when the Angels topped Winner/Colome in the District 5B title game 10-9 on July 29.

“Last year, we played a lot at the level of our competition and it bit us in the butt. We knew we had to have an approach of playing at our level of baseball every single game and if we did that, we would win. I think that’s what showed.”

NOTES: Peyton Smith was the Class B tournament batting champion, hitting .600 (12-for-20) for the Angels. He sealed the honor with an eighth-inning single. … Crofton, Nebraska won the Bob Deming Sportsmanship Award, which is awarded to one team during each tournament. … Earlier in the weekend, Colman’s Deon Entringer was awarded the Class B Tony Adams Hustle Award.

Garretson 000 000 001 -- 1 5 3

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Alexandria 101 020 03x -- 7 13 1

WP: Tyson Gau. LP: Patrick Whetham.

Garretson: Patrick Whetham, Jeff Gacke (8) and Brady Bonte. Alexandria: Tyson Gau and Cory Marek. 2B: Garretson: Sam Johnson, Mike Stephensen. Alexandria: Jordan Gau. Home run: Chris Marek (8th, 0 on, 0 out).

Related Topics: ALEXANDRIA
Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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