A familiar foe has turned into the final piece of Alexandria’s starting quartet on the mound.
With the first pick of the pick-up player draft, the Angels added pitching depth, nabbing Parkston’s ace Brady Nolz. Despite being a Sunshine League rival and a team the Mudcats fell to in the District 5B tournament, Nolz didn’t think twice about the opportunity.
“I’m not going to turn down a chance to play in the state tournament,” he said.
Nolz has never been a pick-up player or pitched for anyone other than Parkston in amateur baseball. Therefore, standing in the dugout of Thursday’s 11-1 seven-inning win over Lake Norden in the first round of the Class B amateur baseball state tournament felt “a little different,” even if he has prior relationships with numerous Angels.
He’s been an assistant coach at Dakota Wesleyan University under John Greicar, where he coached Cole Wenande and Jerrod Zens. He also played with Tyson Gau in Legion baseball and Jordan Gau suited up for the Mudcats prior to Alexandria’s inception.
“We’ve got a good relationship,” Jordan Gau said. “He’s a good kid, he’s a fighter and he’s a competitor. And we know that. It’s kind of a no-brainer to pick him up right away.”
Despite it feeling different and not practicing with the team prior to Thursday’s win, Nolz said, “At the end of the day it’s still baseball.”
And Nolz is still the pitcher who has a 3.05 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 82.2 innings, who says he’s still going to trust his defense no matter who plays behind him.
He’s also a two-time state champion and tournament MVP (2012 & 2015) whose mere presence has an impact before he even throws a pitch for Alexandria. In the 2015 title game against Alexandria, he pitched a complete game and threw 146 pitches against the Angels.
“It’s kind of an intimidation factor just because of his past and what he’s done in the state tournament,” Jordan Gau said. “We got three good guys we can throw out there any night and feel like we have a shot to win the game.”
The Angels play Tabor at 6 p.m. Monday in the second round, though Nolz said he doesn’t know when he’ll make his first start.
Still, he and Gau both emphasized the benefit of pitching depth, especially in the later rounds of the state tournament, which is why Ethan Davis’ 12-strikeout complete game in Round 1 was so beneficial.
“You throw that arm in with the staff that we have in place and we are in a good situation,” Alexandria catcher/manager Chris Marek said. “It doesn’t mean we are going to win every game by any means because we still have to play defense and hit the baseball, but we are in a good situation as far as pitching goes.”
Nolz also knows the Angels’ starting options from newcomer and innings-leader Davis (3.18 ERA/62.1 IP) to Alexandria mainstays Tyson Gau (2.05 ERA) and Trever Vermeulen, who has struck out 19 batters in 13 innings. But he’s focused on things he can control and helping the Angels win.
“That’s big time, another pitcher coming out of the pen,” Davis said. “Brady Nolz is a h--- of a pitcher. He throws it hard. It’s big time to have him. It’s going to help us get deep into the tournament.”