Traxler: Top leagues assert themselves annually at SD amateur tournament
Angels have chance to match PBR’s 90s dominance
Cover the annual South Dakota amateur baseball tournament long enough and one begins to identify a few trends.
While Mitchell prepares for 37 games in the span of 12 days at Cadwell Park and nearby Drake Field, here’s a rundown of some factoids ahead of the 89th gathering for the state’s summer town-team baseball carnival:
The Class B state title winners have been concentrated in three leagues for the last 15 years, with the champions coming exclusively from the Cornbelt, South Central and Sunshine leagues. The last champion from outside those three leagues was Redfield Dairy Queen in 2006.
The four most powerful leagues in amateur baseball — the Cornbelt, South Central, State Line and Sunshine — have been the only leagues to have teams make the semifinals in the last six years. The last semifinalist from outside those four leagues was Clark in 2014.
More recently, the State Line League — with Garretson, Larchwood (Iowa), and the now defunct Harrisburg Woodies — has risen to be a major player late in the tournament. Along with the Sunshine and Cornbelt, the three leagues have provided 31 of the 40 teams to win two games and reach the quarterfinals over the last five seasons. That’s led by the Cornbelt with 12, the Sunshine with 11 and the State Line League with eight. The South Central League has had four quarterfinalists since 2016.
For the Sunshine League, the dominance has been aided by a historic run for Alexandria. The Angels have won five of the last eight Class B state championships. Add in two titles for the Parkston Mudcats in 2012 and 2015, plus Dimock/Emery’s championship in 2010, and eight of the last 11 Class B championships have stayed among three Sunshine League teams.
In Class B amateur history, Dell Rapids Pabst Blue Ribbon’s dynastic run of the 1990s has stood alone. But Alexandria has a chance to match that excellence. PBR had six championships in the span of eight years, and Alexandria can do exactly that with a championship in 2021, if they can climb the difficult mountain once more. Doing so would make Alexandria the first Class B team to win three Class B titles consecutively since PBR did so from 1996 to 1998.
While the South Dakota amateur baseball tournament marks its 89th year in 2021, Cadwell Park will host the state amateur baseball tournament for the 33rd time since it hosted for the first time in 1975.
Since the move to two divisions in 1991, just 12 clubs have won a Class B championship in Mitchell: Alexandria, Canova, Crofton (Neb.), Dell Rapids Mudcats, Dell Rapids PBR, Madison, Macy’s Renner, Montrose, Parkston Mudcats, Redfield, Wynot (Neb.), Vermillion
From 2015 to 2017, the Class B state champion came from the bottom half of the 32-team bracket in each tournament. Most recently, in each of the last three seasons (Canova in 2018, and Alexandria in 2019 and 2020), the champion has come from the top half of the bracket, where the games are traditionally spaced further apart with up to three days off before the quarterfinals, a day off before the semifinals and the earlier of the two semifinals on the penultimate day of the tournament.
2021 represents the 10th state tournament since the move to wood bats in South Dakota amateur baseball, and the 2020 tournament marked the highest-scoring Class B tournament since that change, averaging 5.84 runs per team over 31 games.
The last four Class B state title winners have scored at least 40 runs (or eight runs per game) at the state tournament, including Canova in 2018, which set the high for the wood-bat era of 58 runs in five games. A year ago, Alexandria scored 56 runs in five games. From 2013 to 2016, the Class B champion averaged 33 runs for the tournament.
In Class A, four of the last six championship games have been decided by two runs or less. The Sioux Falls Brewers avoided that trend of close games with a convincing 7-2 win over Brookings in 2020. (The Brewers have turned into the Harrisburg Hops for the 2021 season, and will be one of the primary contenders in Class A once again, alongside Brookings, the Sioux Falls Flying Squirrels and the Yankton Tappers.)