It doesn’t get old.
That was the refrain for Alexandria’s players and supporters, who relished a 2-0 victory over Garretson Sunday in the Class B state amateur baseball championship game at Cadwell Park.
Considering the game was tight throughout and the season had a few more challenging stretches than normal, that made the 2019 title a little sweeter, too.
Sunday’s championship marked the third state championship in four years, and fourth in seven years, for the Angels, and while Alexandria’s core has grown older, the heart of the club remains the same. Nine players -- Tyson Gau, Jordan Gau, John Greicar, Chris Marek, Peyton Smith, Pierce Smith, Reid Smith, Trever Vermeulen, and Cole Wenande -- have played on all four championship teams. Eight of those players started and played in Sunday’s win, and Vermeulen was Saturday’s winning pitcher for the Angels.
“Most of us on the team, we’re family,” said Sunday’s winning pitcher Tyson Gau. “And the rest of us, we hang out in the offseason and go hunting or be together. We know that we have the rest of our guys that we can fall back on and that can make a play when it counts.”
This is the ninth season that this version of the Angels has been around, returning in 2011 after folding in 2005. Since 2011, the Angels have been 212-37, and starting with Alexandria’s first state title season in 2013, the club has been 176-23. Simply put, they know how to win.
“We’re all a little older,” Alexandria manager/catcher Chris Marek said. “We’re not coming off college seasons, so it takes a little longer to get going. We have a core here that just makes it fun. It’s a family approach to winning baseball games, and it takes all of us to get it done. We know we have each other’s backs, whether that’s at the plate or in the field.”
This season had six losses, and the Angels said they heard some of the rumblings about the team maybe being past its prime when it started 1-4. Those losses included dropped contests against Class A powerhouses Renner and Sioux Falls Brewers and last year’s Class B champion Canova. Gau described the team as if it had “seen a ghost” after losing to Sunshine League foe Platte. Not much had to be said about getting on track, but Peyton Smith said the message was simple: stick together.
“You could look at certain situations where, in the dugout, there’s no sense of panic at all,” Jordan Gau said. “That goes back to playing together for as long as we have. We know someone is going to come through in the big time.”
Of the four championships, Jordan Gau said this one probably felt the best because of the caliber of teams still remaining on the tournament’s final weekend. Along with Alexandria and Garretson, Canova and Winner/Colome helped make up the semifinal squads and a consensus that they were the four best teams in Class B amateur baseball.
“The four best teams were still playing … we knew going to the weekend, it was going to be a battle,” Gau said. “We put our heads down and we went to work.”
And Garretson provided maybe one of Alexandria’s toughest challenges yet, after allowing just one unearned run in the first four games of the tournament. Marek said he believes Garretson, which has now played twice in the championship and lost both times to Alexandria, isn’t going anywhere either.
“We have a special group, that obviously shows,” Marek said of the two teams. “They’re young and talented and they’re going to be tough for a long time. It means more to win when you beat a team that was equally deserving if they were to come out on the right side of it.”
For the foreseeable future, Alexandria isn’t showing many signs of slowing down either.
“There’s no greater thing than to compete with your best friends. It’s an unbelievable feeling and it never gets old,” Peyton Smith said.