Dave Gassman and Jay Bentz are synonymous with the Cornbelt League.
So it’s only fitting the league’s new divisions are named after the long-time managers.
This year, the Cornbelt League split its 10-team amateur baseball league into two divisions: Gassman Division and Bentz Division.
“Jay and I are probably the two that have been around the longest,” Gassman said. “So I guess they decided for this season anyway we are going to name it Jay and Dave.”
The season was shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the league to split into two divisions. The teams will play each divisional team twice, while they’ll play the other league teams once.
The Bentz Division includes: Colman, Flandreau, Lennox, Madison and Dell Rapids PBR. The Gassman Division includes: Canova, Hartford-Humboldt Wood Ducks, Dell Rapids Mudcats, Salem and Hartford-Humboldt Gamecocks.
Whose idea was it to name them the Gassman Division and Bentz Division? Don’t ask Gassman.
“I have no idea,” Gassman laughed. “When I found out, I guess, everybody that I know found out the same time I did.”
But Gassman feels honored to be recognized with another amateur baseball pioneer. Gassman holds 11 state records as a pitcher and served as Canova’s manager for more than 40 years. He guided Canova to its recent title in 2018.
Bentz played catcher and second base for PBR, while later serving as a player-manager for the team. He helped PBR win 11 district championships and nine state championships.
“We’ve had a great relationship over the years,” Gassman said. “We competed with each other and we’ve competed against each other many times. We’ve had numerous big games in the state tournament over the years. … It’s been a great relationship.”
The relationship was strengthened in recent years as both battled health issues. Bentz, who gave up his manager duties in 2018, was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. Gassman, meanwhile, had a bout with multiple myeloma cancer and daily dialysis treatments.
“We’ve both had our problems here the last couple of years,” Gassman said. “It’s kind of special that they thought of us.”
Canova hands Alexandria rare home defeat
Canova's 12-6 win at Alexandria on June 3 was not just a battle between two perennial amateur baseball powers, but marked a rare blemish for the host Angels.
The Gang's victory marked just the sixth home loss for Alexandria since 2013, where the Angels had been 65-5 in games played in Alexandria across a seven-season span ending in 2019. That also coincided with the Angels' run of dominance in Class B play, with state championships in 2013, 2016, 2017 and 2019. The Angels were 176-23 from 2013 to 2019 and have started 5-1 this season.
Ironically, two of the Angels' last four home games have been losses. After the Angels had won 28 straight home games over three-plus seasons, Mount Vernon ended that streak on July 16, 2019 with a 10-3 victory. The Angels defeated Corsica/Stickney to end its 2019 home schedule two days later and won nine in a row to claim the state championship, before Canova spoiled Wednesday's 2020 home opener.
And like they did a year ago, Alexandria followed that home defeat with a victory over Corsica/Stickney, defeating the Horned Frogs 12-2 in seven innings on Thursday night.
Canova is the only team to beat Alexandria twice on its home field in that time, doing it in 2014 as well.