The last time Canova and Akron, Iowa met in the Class B state amateur baseball tournament, it was 2015 and the game lasted 16 innings.
On Saturday, the game lasted half as long and the defending state champions ensured fans at Cadwell Park would not see a repeat.
The Gang shook off a slow start at the plate, using a four-run sixth inning to beat the Rebels, 10-0, in eight innings to advance to the second round of the tournament, where Flandreau awaits in a state championship rematch at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
“We started out right away with a run and everybody’s thinking we’re going to get some runs and hits and you get overconfident,” Canova manager Dave Gassman said. “All of a sudden you’re in the sixth inning and you’re only up one run. We weren’t stinging the ball like we should and thank goodness we were playing some pretty good defense at times.”
That defense was headed by pitcher Derek Miller, who earned a complete-game shutout win, allowing five hits and striking out nine batters. Miller was efficient for most of the night, with 71.4 percent of his 105 pitches finding the strike zone.
On the occasions Miller did find himself in trouble, he was able to avoid any potential damage. Akron managed to put runners on the corners in the top of the sixth, but Miller was able to secure a ground ball, setting up Canova’s big sixth inning.
“A lot of my off-speed was working today and just making sure I throw that first strike,” Miller said. “I trusted my defense, so when I don’t throw it, they’re going to get me out of that jam.”
Miller’s off-speed pitches were indeed a problem for the Rebels, who were not familiar with a pitcher of his style.
“We don’t see a lot of pitchers that throw a lot of changeups,” Akron player-manager Brett Stolpe said. “He just kept us off-balance.”
Canova found its balance when Trevor Oswald reached on an error and then scored on a wild pitch in the sixth. Justin Miller followed with a two-run single and Cole Gassman doubled to right field to increase the Gang’s lead to 6-0.
Having lost to Flandreau in the District 4B tournament championship game and then starting a bit sluggish, there could have been a cause for concern, but not for Canova.
“I have some confidence that they’ll come back, and if they don’t come back sometime, I guess we’ll lose,” Gassman said jokingly.
Justin Miller was 3-for-5, while Cole Gassman was 3-for-4 and Jason Miller had a pair of hits and drove in a pair of runs for Canova (23-3).
Nick Jacobs took the loss on the mound, allowing three earned runs on six hits in five innings. The recent high school graduate also had two hits.