Canova Gang advance to quarterfinals


August 9th 2015

The Canova/Howard Gang is headed to the quarterfinals.

A three-run seventh inning broke up a scoreless pitchers' dual and helped propel Canova/Howard past Lennox Only One 8-1 in a second round game at the Class B state amateur baseball tournament on Sunday at Cadwell Park in Mitchell.

"All of sudden a couple of breaks went our way," C/H manager Dave Gassman said. "In a game like this, you're hoping when the breaks come, they come your way and they came our way."

Canova/Howard advances to play either Akron (Iowa) or Garretson at 6 p.m. on Thursday.

Both teams scored 12 runs in first-round wins, but runs were hard to come by until the seventh inning on cool, windy night at Cadwell Park.

Canova's Gavin Gassman pitched a complete game for the Gang. Gassman allowed one run off six hits and finished with seven strikeouts and four walk

"He threw excellent," Dave Gassman said. "He's been a solid pitcher for us all year."

Lennox Only One's Drew Sweeter took the loss. Sweeter allowed seven runs, five earned, off 11 hits in seven innings with eight strikeouts

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"They put the ball in play and we didn't make the plays," Lennox Only One manager Chad Reilly said. "Hats off to them. They're a great ballclub and I think they are going to go far in this tournament."

Nick Koepsell drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the seventh inning and came around to score the game's first run after a Justin Miller double. Miller scored on a Jared Miller RBI single and Jared Miller scored during a rundown that caught Derek Miller stealing, which put Canova in front 3-0.

The Gang added five runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to put the game away.

Canova's defense played strong behind Gavin Gassman throughout the game and the team finished with only one error, that coming in the bottom of the ninth.

"Of all the stats up there, the one I'm most proud of is the errors," Dave Gassman said. "That's the key to winning close games. Don't beat yourself."

Jared Miller went 4-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs, while Justin Miller went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a runs scored for Canova/Howard.

Lennox Only One's Matt Storo scored his team's only run, while Jeremy VanHeel led the team with two hits.

Dave Gassman said Canova will be ready for another tough matchup in the quarterfinals.

"It's one game at a time," Gassman said. "We're thinking ahead, but we're not playing ahead."

NOTES: The game between Canova and Lennox Only One was scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, but was delayed 45 minutes because of a thunderstorm. Game time was two hours and 13 minutes.

August 5th. 2015


Canova didn't get off to the start it wanted at the Class B state amateur baseball tournament on Wednesday at Cadwell Park in Mitchell.

But, the Gang did get the end result they were looking for, as Canova defeated Kimball/White Lake 12-5, despite using four pitchers in the first four innings.

"I would say we struggled, but you have to give them some credit," Canova manager Dave Gassman said. "Our pitchers had trouble throwing strikes, it was a pretty tough game actually. We weren't loose until the end of the game.

"We were sluggish the whole game to be honest, but we fought through it and got the win. I give credit to our guys to be able to do that."

The Bankers started off the scoring in the top of the first, as they picked up two runs highlighted by a Dylan Deckert RBI triple.

But, Canova answered with three runs of its own in the bottom frame.

The Gang didn't hold the lead for long, as K/WL answered with three runs in the top of the second inning.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, the Gang's Jared Miller cleared the bases with a three-run double to give Canova a 6-5 lead.

Devin Alfson sealed the win for Canova in the bottom of the eighth inning with a three-run home run to the left field corner. He earned himself a "I went deep at Cadwell Park" t-shirt, and extended his team's lead to 12-5. It was his fifth home run of the season.

"That's what we expect out of Devin, he can hit his home runs," Gassman said. "He got it high and got it into a different jet stream. He's here to do that for us, and it was a game-breaker for us. Who knows what would have happened if we went into the top of the ninth up only three."

Derek Miller picked up the win for Canova in relief, pitching five innings, allowing no runs and striking out two batters. Miller also had three hits and one RBI for Canova.

Spencer Lucas took the loss on the mound for K/WL, pitching 6 2/3 innings while allowing eight runs (six earned) and striking out three batters.

"We came out of the gate pretty strong, we were fired up and ready to go," K/WL manager Wesley Kroupa said. "We honestly thought we deserved to be here, and if we played our game and a couple things went our way, we'd come out with a win. We ran out of gas and had a pitch or two that didn't go our way, but that's baseball. They weathered the storm, they were more experienced."

Kroupa had two RBIs and one hit for K/WL.

Canova (17-7) takes on Lennox Only One at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday at Cadwell Park. K/WL ends its season at 10-14.

Lennox Only One 12, Milbank 6

In the first game of the Class B state amateur baseball tournament Wednesday at Cadwell Park in Mitchell, Lennox Only One put on a hitting clinic against Milbank.

In Lennox Only One's 12-6 win, Curt Lottman had three hits, while Justin Vietor contributed two. Justin Reilly had two hits and drove in four runs, while Jeremy VanHeel had three RBIs.

Jared Hegdahl earned the win on the mound, tossing 6 1/3 innings while striking out six batters while allowing five hits.

Lance Frogner took the loss on the mound, throwing six innings and allowing nine runs while striking out five.

Taylor Boerger had three hits for Milbank.

Lennox Only One (6-13) takes on the winner of Howard/Canova and Kimball/White Lake at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday at Cadwell Park. Milbank finishes its season at 7-10.

August 14, 2013 

 Crofton infielder Alex Mueller forces out Canova's Trevor Oswald during the Class B state amateur baseball tournament Wednesday at Sioux Falls Stadium. Canova advanced with a 4-2 win. / Emily Spartz / Argus LeaderAmateur Baseball - Canova - Crofton   

Canova’s Garrett Gassman was 0-for-3 when the Gang entered the top of the seventh inning Wednesday night in the Class B state amateur baseball tournament at Sioux Falls Stadium.

He ended the night 2-for-5 with two huge RBI in the late innings to propel Canova to a 4-2 win over the Crofton (Neb.) Bluejays.

Gassman’s liner to right field came with two outs in the seventh inning and was misplayed by Crofton’s Kyle Mueller. Mueller attempted to make the catch, but the ball bounced under his glove and rolled to the wall.

Canova’s Trevor Oswald singled with two outs in the inning and scampered from first base to score the wining run off of Gassman’s double.

“He thought he had a shot at it,” said Crofton manager Carl Schieffer of Mueller’s diving attempt in right field. “He’s made that catch a number of times so I would never second guess him on trying to make that play.”

Gassman also singled in the ninth to score Nick Koepsell, giving Canova a two-run cushion headed into the bottom of the ninth.

“I was really too anxious in those first three at-bats,” Gassman said of his early struggles. “I wasn’t having good at-bats and I was just being too aggressive. I was a little more dialed in in those last two at-bats. I was pretty sure going up there that I would have an opportunity to do something.”

Canova held a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth when Crofton manufactured a run to tie the score. Alex Mueller led off the inning with a walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Kyle Mueller. After an error by Canova’s Oswald at shortstop, Alex Mueller advanced to third and batter Scot Donner reached first. Donner later stole second base and the Bluejays had two runners in scoring position with just one out.

Next batter Nick Hegge hit a towering fly ball to right field and Alex Mueller tagged and scored the tying run. However, right fielder Curt Carlson threw a pinpoint throw to third base in time to tag out Donner and end the inning.

Canova’s Jared Donahue pitched a solid game as well, limiting the Bluejays to just three hits over eight innings with seven strikeouts. Lincoln Gassman got the save for the Gang, giving up one hit in the bottom of the ninth

Canova pitcher Jared Donahue shouts after an umpire's call at home plate against Crofton. / Emily Spartz / Argus Leader

Amateur Baseball - Canova - CroftonCanova's #2 Trevor Oswald gets a fist bumb from #5 Jerry Kampshoff after a base hit against Crofton during Class

Canova's #2 Trevor Oswald gets a fist bumb from #5 Jerry Kampshoff after a base hit against Crofton during Class "B" Amateur Baseball at Sioux Falls Stadium in Sioux Falls, S.D., Wednesday, August 14, 2013. 



August 6, 2010

"Great Hit" "Great Catch"



Devo hits 2 home runs to tie the game!!

Trevor Oswald catches a fly ball in Canova's opening game against Chamberlain!

Canova overcomes six-run deficit


MICK GARRY • • August 6, 2010


With a combination of power and good fortune, the defending Class B champion Canova Gang survived a scare on Thursday at Sioux Falls Stadium, coming back from a 6-0 deficit to defeat Chamberlain 8-6 in the first-round of the state amateur tournament.


The power came from Devin Alfson, a slugger among sluggers for the Gang, who hit a three-run homer in the fifth inning and another in the seventh to bring Canova back to a 6-6 tie. It was a little weird, but nobody has to tell the Canova Gang about weird stuff at a state baseball tournament.

The Gang, a perennial smalltown power in amateur baseball, went three decades without a state title prior to ending that streak last year. That gap in titles was filled with some of the same sort of misfortunes that filled the early innings Thursday.

 "This is my 15th year, and we've had a lot of good teams in that time," said Alfson. "You just never know what you're going to run into in the state tournament. Today we were hitting the ball pretty hard, but the Chamberlain fielders were making the plays for most of the game."
There was no making a play on Alfson's three-run bomb that sailed over the wall above the 380-foot sign in left-center field in the fifth inning. The Chamberlain outfielders had no way of coming up with the next ball Alfson hit, either, which went out of the park at about the same spot. 

 "(Brock) Kreutzfeldt was doing a great job of keeping us off balance," Alfson said. "We see a lot more fastballs in the Cornbelt than we were seeing today. The first two times up, he got me hitting off my front foot with changeups. The next two times they were changeups again and I got the bat on the ball. I guess you'd have to say I felt fortunate to be in those situations."

Chamberlain had taken a 6-0 lead in the fifth inning with an RBI single off Lincoln Gassman by Todd Priebe, a two-run double from Bryce Kreutzfeldt and an RBI single from Curt Carlson. In the meantime Brock Kreutzfeldt was keeping a Gang lineup loaded with players hitting well over .300 from scoring a run. "We hit about five line drives that didn't get us a run in those first five innings," Canova manager Dave Gassman said. "Then we finally got a few breaks there."

With two outs in the eighth, Canova pinch-runner Cody Torkelson scored from second base on a Jason Miller popup into the sun that glanced off the glove of third baseman Garrett Harmon. The Gang added another run with a bloop single from Jared Hegdahl.

"Who would ever guess we'd hit five shots and it would be a little popup in the sun that would be the deciding factor for us?" Gassman said. "That was a tough one to catch. I saw the ball hit and I looked up and all I saw was sun. I guess it was our turn to get a break back."

The Gang will play the Dell Rapids Mudcats at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday.


Canova wins first title since 1979

All is well in the state’s biggest small-town baseball community once again.


By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic

All is well in the state’s biggest small-town baseball community once again.

Canova got six strong innings from Jared Donahue, Kevin Leighton played his final game and the Gang captured its first Class B state amateur championship in 30 years Sunday at Cadwell Park.

“This means just a little bit to this community. I don’t think there’s anybody left in Miner County right now,” Leighton said while celebrating with friends, family and teammates after the victory. “Thirty years is a long time to wait for one of these.”

The 51-year-old Leighton, who has hit 501 career home runs, went 1-for-5 in his final game as an amateur baseball player. At the beginning of the season he announced it would be the final one.

His one hit, an RBI single up the middle in the fourth inning, gave Canova a 2-0 lead. The hit scored Thomas Gulledge, a pickup player from Salem, who scored the Gang’s first run of the game in the second.

Donahue faced the minimum six batters in the first two innings, but he got some defensive help in the third with runners on first and second and two out.

On a high looping fly ball hit to shallow centerfield, the Gang’s Devin Alfson raced in to make a diving catch and saved at least one run.

The play ignited Canova’s offense, which scored five runs on five hits in the top of the fourth.

Curt Carlson and Grant Olson had back-to-back singles with two outs and catcher Garrett Gassman followed that with a two-RBI single to center.

“We didn’t stop scoring,” Canova manager Dave Gassman said. “We kept tacking on runs until the end of the game. You can talk about our pitching here today, but look at our offense and the way the guys played.”

Since 1979, the Gang has lost eight Class B state title games, and during that time span none of Canova’s teams ever scored more than nine runs in the title game.

In the sixth, Canova threatened to break that barrier with runners on first and second and no outs, but Dell Rapids turned the state amateur tournament‘s the first triple play since 1971 to end the inning.

Working on only two-days rest, Donahue got the first PBR batters out in the bottom of the sixth, and after a walk, he got the final out on a grounder to second.

“I’ve always been able to (come back on short rest),” Donahue said. “Today, I started out a little tight, but once I got going I loosened up and was able to go until I just wore out.”

After Canova put up its seventh and eighth runs of the game in the seventh, Donahue opened an at-bat against PBR’s Scott LeBron — who was the second batter of the inning — with his 110th pitch. Donahue, who picked up his second win of the tournament and was named the tournament MVP, gave up four earned runs in the seventh on three base hits and a walk before exiting the game. He finished the day with 123 pitches, which was only a fraction of his 426 total pitches during the tournament.

“I grew up in the years where we didn’t have pitch count,” said Dave Gassman, who owns both the all-time career wins and strikeout records in amateur baseball. “I’m definitely not saying what he did is overrated; I’m saying a lot of that comes from the heart. We used to say a pitch count was only how many pitches it took to throw nine innings.”

Lincoln Gassman pitched the remainder of the seventh inning, and Canova got a two-run homer by Alfson in the top of the eighth. Alfson crushed an 0-1 pitch over the left-field fence, giving Canova its tenth run of the game.

“We put together the game we wanted to that we haven’t been able to in the last eight state championships,” Gassman said. “Both pitching and hitting were going for us.”

Canova added one more insurance run in the ninth with Jason Miller led the inning off with a double. Leighton got up to the plate for his final career at-bat and slapped the first pitch he saw to PBR’s first baseman and Jared Hegdahl hit a high loopping single to shallow right field to score Miller.

Lincoln Gassman got two of the first three PBR hitters out in the bottom of the ninth, and after Kevin Krull knocked a two-run homer to get his team within five runs, he got the next batter to fly out to left field.

As Canova rushed the field to celebrate, one of the umpires said the Gang’s Curt Carlson didn’t catch the ball. Canova claimed after he made the catch, he bent down to pick up his sunglasses, which had fallen off of his head during the play. The umpires ruled no catch and the base runner, PBR’s Craig Hansen, raced around the diamond for an inside-the-park home run.

“He caught the ball,” Leighton said. “I just thought they’re going to have to do that four more times in a row. I just tried to calm everyone down after that.”

Three pitches later Gassman struck out PBR’s final hitter and Canova charged the field for what was the final out.

“When you’ve got eight runner-ups what can you say?” Dave Gassman said. “This is the highlight of the last 30 years of baseball for me.”

Six Canova hitters had two or more hits including Gulledge who led the team with a 3-for-4 game with a walk and three runs. The former Dakota Wesleyan player hit .412 over the course of the tournament with one homer and a team-leading nine RBIs. Garrett Gassman hit .444 over the course of the tournament, which topped Canova.

Posted Aug 14/09 - Canova in Semi-Finals


(Picture By) Matt Bunke/Republic
Members of the Canova Gang race out of the dugout as they celebrate the final out in their come-from-behind win over the defending champion Dell Rapids Mudcats in a quarterfinal game at the Class B state amateur baseball tournament at Cadwell Park.


Canova’s eighth-inning clutch hitting sent the Gang within two wins of their first state title since 1979 Thursday night at the Class B state amateur tournament at Cadwell Park.

Pickup player Thomas Gulledge hit a two-out, two-RBI double to the right field corner in the bottom of the eighth, giving Canova a 10-9 lead — its first lead since the third inning.

“I knew exactly what I was looking for in that last hit,” Gulledge said. “He threw it in the exact spot I was looking for. I had confidence that if we didn’t get it done in the eighth, we’d get it done in the bottom of the ninth.”

In the next at-bat, Jason Miller hit a two-RBI double, and in the bottom of the ninth Lincoln Gassman got the final three outs and the Gang defeated the Class B defending champion Dell Rapids Mudcats 12-9.

Going into the eighth, the Mudcats had built a 9-4 lead.

Gulledge led the inning off with a looping single to right field and Miller walked behind him. Kevin Leighton picked up his first hit of the game with a hard liner to left to load the bases and Jared Hegdahl walked to get the Gang within four. Miller scored in the next at-bat on a wild pitch and Nick Keopsell hit a bouncing ground ball past Dell Rapids’ shortstop to score two runs.

“It didn’t look good; there’s no doubt about that,” Canova manager Dave Gassman said. “We hadn’t been hitting the ball. They got a few runs that probably shouldn’t have happened. It came back for us and we got a few hits, next thing you know we’ve got eight runs and we’re up.”

Two batters after Keopsell’s single, Grant Olson hit a tapper to the pitcher, who misplayed the ball and allowed runners on first and second. Devin Alfson walked in the next at-bat and then Gulledge dropped his shot down the line.

“I like all of (Canova’s guys) and when I heard they picked me up I was excited because I knew I had a chance at a state title,” said Gulledge, who normally plays for Salem. “Every year they come in and they’ve got a real shot.”

The Gang turned to Jared Donahue to take the mound after helping his team to a first-round win over Larchwood, Iowa. Donahue cruised through the first three innings, but Gulledge made an error at third to score a run and the Mudcats’ No. 9 hitter doubled to right center to get the Mudcats within one run.

Donahue struck out two batters in the fifth to leave Mudcat base runners on second and third, but Dell Rapids took the lead in the sixth on two unearned runs when Leighton dropped a fly ball and Gulledge tried to throw home on a bases-loaded grounder, but the throw was too low, giving the Mudcats a one-run lead.

The Mudcats scored three more runs in the top of the eighth on three RBI singles, exiting Donahue from the game.

“He was gassed,” Dave Gassman said. “The kid gave us everything he had and that’s all you can ask from him.”

Donahue threw 7.2 innings, a total of 162 pitches and struck out 11 Dell Rapids batters.

Gulledge was the only Canova hitter with more than one hit. He went 3-for-5 with four RBIs.

“I don’t think there’s a person here that didn’t get their monies worth tonight,” Dave Gassman said. “First, they probably thought we were going to win by a lot, then they were going to win by a lot and then we get eight runs in the ninth. That was quite a ball game.”***************Daily Republic Mitchell

Posted Aug 6/09 - Over 50


Canova will host the 1st Annual "OVER 50'S" State Tournament on August 22 and 23rd. Games will begin at NOON on Saturday and the Final game will begin at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday. Check out the Over 50's Page for Details.

The 3rd Annual "OVER 40'S" Tournament will be held in Canova on August 25-31  -  8 teams - single elimination play out all 8 places.   (Canova/Flandreau, Salem, Canistota. Meckling, Aberdeen, Dell Rapids, Parkston, Yankton)
more information to follow



Canova's Grant Olson takes a swing against Dell Rapids PBR on Sunday in the Class B state amateur championship in Mitchell.Canova's Grant Olson takes a swing against Dell Rapids PBR on Sunday in the Class B state amateur championship in Mitchell. (Lara neel / argus leader)

Canova beats PBR for 'B' title


MICK GARRY • • August 17, 2009

MITCHELL - Canova has represented one of the state's amateur baseball hotbeds for decades now, though the town hadn't brought home a state title in 30 years going into Sunday's Class B final with Dell Rapids PBR.


It wasn't for lack of trying. Eight times since 1979 the "Gang" had lost in the state final, most recently in 2002, sustaining a reputation all the while for bringing a large contingent of vocal and thirsty fans with them to state tournament play.


They were all back on Sunday at Cadwell Park, no worse for the 30-year wear. In front of what was estimated to be the biggest crowd in state amateur baseball tournament history - as well as the biggest crowd ever at Cadwell Park - the Gang got it done, defeating longtime nemesis PBR 11-7 in an all-Corn Belt League final.

"How about these guys?" Canova Gang manager Dave Gassman asked the crowd during the awards ceremony while he held the trophy. "They never gave up, they stuck with it and lo-and-behold, here it is."


An odd ending made the wait even longer. With two outs in the ninth, Dell Rapids' Kevin Krull hit a two-run homer off Lincoln Gassman to make the score 11-6.

Craig Hansen then launched a deep fly to left that Curt Carlson caught, stumbling to the ground on the warning track. Carlson picked his sunglasses off the ground as he got back on his feet, but it appeared the umpires thought he was picking up the ball after he'd dropped it.


Canova players thought the game was over and began running toward the infield. Hansen kept running too, though, circling the bases as the Gang began their celebration.


Hansen got an inside-the-park home run out of the deal as the Gang, after considerable discussion, resumed their positions.

"I told the guys, we've waited this long - we don't want to end this game on a play like that," Dave Gassman said. "Let's get an out that everyone can see."


Lincoln Gassman then retired Blake Harms and the celebration began again - this time in earnest.

"It was a little bit of a buzzkill is what it was," Lincoln Gassman said. "He was picking up his sunglasses."

As strange as it was, the play was of little consequence. The bigger picture involved a small community that has annually coveted a title that it hadn't won since many of the younger players on the team were born.


"During the game you could look out at that sea of red and yellow - this a town that loves their baseball, loves their baseball team," said Devin Alfson, who began playing for the Gang in 1996. "It's a little surreal right now - it's hard to explain."


If the wait had indeed become the weight for the veterans on the team, it didn't show. Canova ended Dell Rapids starter Bruce Mogen's day early, knocking him out of the game in a five-run fourth inning.


Dell Rapids advanced to the title game on Saturday night after trailing Redfield 12-0, winning 14-13. There was no such magic against the Gang, though at one point PBR got halfway there - narrowing the deficit to 8-4 with a four-run seventh that chased tournament MVP and game-winner Jared Donahue.

"We've played them so many times in situations like this," said PBR catcher and co-manager Jay Bentz, who had three hits. "Eventually things are going to change. I don't want to take anything away from Canova - they had a great blend of players this year with some great pitching - but I think after putting everything we had into that comeback (Saturday) night, we might have come out a little flat today."


Canova got 16 hits and six different players knocked in runs off Mogen and Landon Klock, who pitched 6.2 innings on Saturday night and came back to pitch 5.1 innings on Sunday.


Canova hit into a triple play to end a threat in the sixth inning. It was the first triple play recorded in state amateur play since 1971.

Two innings later, however, Alfson's two-run shot pushed the lead back to 10-4. Though it got exciting again in the ninth, the Gang prevailed.


"When you've been to the game eight times and not won it, you wonder if this time it is really going to happen," Dave Gassman said. "Then we give up a homer and an in-the-parker when we're so close to ending it. But this team really wanted to be the best this year - that was the goal. And they didn't falter."



Published August 15 2009

Canova will play Dell Rapids PBR in title game

Canova will try for its first amateur baseball title in 30 years on Sunday afternoon after beating Wessington-Miller 12-10 Saturday in a semifinal game of the Class B state amateur tournament at Cadwell Park.

By: Matt Bunke, The Daily Republic

Canova trailed 7-4 late, but used four runs in the eighth and three more in the top of the ninth to build a 12-8 lead.

After Wessington-Miller scored a run and had the bases loaded with nobody out in the bottom of the ninth, Thomas Gulledge came into slam the door and earn the save, sending Canova to the title game for the first time since 2002. Canova will play at approximately 2 p.m. Sunday against 2007 champion Dell Rapids PBR, which rallied from a 12-0 deficit in Saturday's other semifinal game to beat Redfield Dairy Queen, 14-13.

Gulledge also had a big two-run double in the eighth for Canova, and Chad Schultz had the go-ahead hit in that inning. Jason Miller and Kevin Leighton had consecutive run-scoring doubles in the pivotal three-run ninth inning.

Grant Olson and Garrett Gassman were both 3-for-6 to lead Canova and Miller had a team-high three RBIs. Jared Hegdahl earned the win on the mound, going seven innings.





Article from the Argus Leader-6/07/08   LINK


Jared Donahue, a Winner High School graduate, has strikeout totals of 21, 22 and 19 for Canova's amateur team in 2008. (LARA NEEL / ARGUS LEADER)

When Jared Donahue stands on the pitching mound these days, he's on top of the world. Or at least his section of it.

The 19-year-old Winner High School graduate is mowing down hitters in fine country hardball fashion for Canova's amateur baseball team this season.

In his first start, Donahue tallied 21 strikeouts in 10 innings against Humboldt in Corn Belt League action. He followed that with 22 against Salem and then lost 3-2 to Flandreau last week while striking out 19. 

In Jared's world, the leather ball and the aluminum bat are just not getting together much.

"He's one of the best kids I've seen come into the league in a long time," said Dave Gassman, the pitching legend who now manages the Canova Gang. "He's got to put some time in yet, of course, but he's proven to me that he's going to be pretty good."

Donahue, who redshirted this year at South Dakota State, spent time this spring involved in a pitching-specific acceleration program at Avera McKennan. Those exercises have taken their toll on opposing hitters.

"I haven't thrown for the gun yet, but I'm guessing I'm throwing about 5 miles an hour faster than I was," said Donahue, who was eligible to play American Legion this summer but opted for the amateur ranks.

Donahue credits Andrew Overland, his high school coach from Winner, with teaching him a wicked curveball that he's been able to harness well enough to throw on hitter's counts. There are other pitches, too.

"I throw a two-seamer, a four-seamer, curve, circle change and a knuckleball," he says. "If the knuckleball spins a little, it still works as a change-up."

Rave reviews

Donahue's ability to throw above-level stuff with above-level accuracy is the thing that has veteran amateur hitters shaking their heads.

"You can tell he's in shape because he's been throwing at a college; he's a little ahead of most of the rest of us," said Brent Reilly of Humboldt.

"But I'm not saying that to minimize what he's done. He's a lefty and he's got great stuff - just a hell of a pitcher. He hums in a pretty good fastball, that moves and he's got a good deuce that he can throw for strikes."

Rick Weber's Flandreau team beat Canova and Donahue 3-2 last weekend, but the Cardinals fanned 19 times in the lefthander's eight innings.

Weber, a longtime Corn Belt pitcher and slugger, did not play in the game, he was quick to point out.

When asked, however, whether his presence in the lineup would have increased or decreased Donahue's strikeout totals, Weber laughed and issued a quick "no comment."

"The biggest thing is that he mixes his pitches so well," Weber said. "In talking with our guys, he threw off-speed, medium speed and hard. You add that to a nice curve, and and he's tough to hit. He never throws the ball in the same place twice."

Staying power

Donahue began playing baseball in Canova as a youth, then moved with his family to Winner after starting high school in Howard. The former Class B Legion player of the year has been a pickup player for Clearfield at the state amateur tournament, so several players he's faced have seen him before.

Just not this version.

Gassman, a veteran of 40 years of amateur baseball, anticipates the strikeout totals may come down some, but not a lot.

"I think we're seeing, because of the way he's been able to follow up a 22-strikeout performance with 19, that he's not a fluke," Gassman said. "There's definitely some talent there."

Weber agreed.

"We hope the hitters catch up with him a little more," Weber said. "And they probably will to some extent. I have a feeling, though, that he's still going to have a lot of games where he's going to have between 12 and 15 strikeouts."

The temptation would be to compare the youngster with Gassman, the record-setting fireballer who struck fear in hitters all the way into his 50s.

But the Canova manager is righthanded, for one thing, and a big guy. Donahue, at 6-foot, 190 pounds, does things differently.

"My fastball might have been a little faster, but he's right there with that," Gassman said. "And he's got a better curveball. I sure would have liked to have that kid's curveball."

Drawing a crowd

Donahue does not approach hitters looking for strikeouts, he says. That's just the way things have been ending up.

"I know I have to start watching my pitch counts," he said. "I bought a pitch counter at Scheels this week. I feel great, but I probably shouldn't be going too much over 110 pitches or so. I'm just trying to have fun and beat the hitters."

Donahue moved back to Canova to live with his sister while playing for the Gang. During the day, he works at Clarke Machine in Howard. At night, he strikes people out.

Gassman estimates Canova's home attendance has increased by 10 to 15 fans a game, based on Donahue's relatives from the area who are now watching the Gang in action.

The state representative, farmer and businessman is anticipating the buzz surrounding his young pitcher may further beef up Canova gate receipts as the season progresses.

"At three or four dollars a head, you can do the math," Gassman joked. "It's going to be good for the Gang."


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22nd June, 2024
Few Clouds
Wind: 16.11 miles/hour

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