The Alexandria Angels and Winner/Colome Pheasants are no strangers to each other.
Today’s game at 1 p.m. will be the 17th meeting between the Sunshine League foes in the past seven seasons. The winner will advance to the Class B state amateur baseball championship game at 2 p.m. on Sunday at Cadwell Park.
It’s the first meeting at the state tourney since 2013 when Alexandria edged Winner/Colome 4-3 in the title tilt. Alexandria owns a 12-4 mark in the past 16 matchups.
“It’s a big game,” Alexandria second baseman Cole Wenande said. “It’s a rivalry. We know we are going to see their best and we are just going to play our game.”
While Alexandria has had Winner/Colome’s number in recent meetings, including a 2-0 record this season, the Pheasants have still given fits to their league foe.
Winner/Colome won two meetings last season, including a 12-5 decision in the district final. The Pheasants also defeated the Angels 1-0 in a regular-season game, with Connor Hopkins throwing a no-hitter.
“They are a formidable opponent,” Alexandria manager/catcher Chris Marek said. “We know they are going to give us a good game.”
Marek said the Angels will throw Trever Vermeulen, who was the 2017 state tournament co-MVP with teammate Tyson Gau. Hopkins will likely get the call against the Angels.
“They have a heck of a good pitcher that we are going to see,” Marek said. “I think you are going to see a great pitching duel, but I think it just shows the strength of our league. We have two teams here that are going to battle it out for a spot in the state championship.”
Alexandria and Winner/Colome were two of five Sunshine League teams in the field. Corsica-Stickney, Mount Vernon and Dimock-Emery also qualified for state. Mount Vernon finished second in the district tourney this year and handed losses to both Alexandria and Winner/Colome during the regular season. The Mustangs didn’t even qualify for last year’s state tournament.
“I would say us and the Cornbelt -- I would say are by far the top leagues in the state,” Gau said. “It’s good to see. From Mount Vernon not making it last year -- to them finishing second in our district tournament -- that says a lot. It’s fun playing good teams in and out, even the eighth seed in our league always seems to give people battle. You have to show up and play always.”
The Mustangs were close to making it three Sunshine League teams in the quarterfinals, but they dropped a 6-5 decision against Milbank in the second round.
“Sunshine League top to bottom this year, I think, was the toughest league,” Mount Vernon’s Eric Giblin said after the defeat. “One through eight, I'll put our league against anybody. Winner/Colome and Alexandria have the pitching to make a deep run this year.”
The bottom half of the league also flexed their muscles this season, too. Wagner stunned Winner/Colome in the opening round of the district tournament, proving any team can win on any given night.
“(It) makes us better,” Winner/Colome manager Kevin Graesser said about the league. “(It) makes every team in that league better. Every night you have you don't have a game off, you have to play it.