When the Class B state amateur baseball tournament bracket was released, there was a potential second round matchup that stood out.
And after Canova and Flandreau each dispatched Akron, Iowa and Freeman -- respectively 10-0 in eight innings in the first round, it sets up a rematch of last year’s state championship game at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
The Gang, of course, beat the Cardinals last year, and that, coupled with the fact that teams have played seven times in the last two years, brings a little more juice to this second round game.
“We know what each other are capable of doing,” Canova manager Dave Gassman said. “We’re going to be out there giving it our all and they’re going to be trying to knock us off like we knocked them off last year. I know it’s a (second round) game, but it’s still a huge game in the tournament.”
Canova has the series edge this season, 2-1, but Flandreau took District 4B championship game on Aug. 3, 6-4, after the Gang went unbeaten in Cornbelt League play.
The overall series in the last two years is also in Canova’s favor, 4-3, but the teams are so familiar with each other that there is little edge to gain and few secrets to keep.
“This will be our eighth time playing them in the last four years,” Flandreau player-manager Bret Severtson said. “I’m going to throw and it’ll be my fourth time pitching against them in the last two years. It’s just going to be who executes. It’s going to be a big game for us and we knew it when we first saw the bracket.”
Justin Miller was able to execute on Saturday, despite a slow start by the Gang at the plate. He was 3-for-5 and drove in two runs, and the lead-off man has produced against Flandreau in recent meetings.
In his last three games against the Cardinals, Miller is 6-for-13 with four RBIs, and he is looking forward to rehashing a rivalry for what will be their second game in less than two weeks.
“You want to see the good teams and they’re one of the best,” Miller said. “It’s always fun to play against the best.”
Although both teams are looking forward to the game, many people imagined any potential state title rematch would come later in the tournament. Instead, the top-four Cornbelt League teams were placed in the same eight-team pod.
Flandrea won’t shy away from the game against Canova, but in the first couple rounds of the tournament, Severtson was hoping to play opponents the Cardinals don’t typically have a chance to play during the regular season.
“Competitively, it’s fun to play people you don’t play throughout the year,” Severtson said. “You’ve got 32 teams here and we’ve played eight of them, probably, the last few years. It’s just nice to play other teams you’re not familiar with and to see what other baseball players are like across the state.”