Last year as a 9U team, Alpena won the Cal Ripken state championship despite playing only a handful of games together.
What a difference a year makes.
Alpena pounded its way to the 2014 Cal Ripken state title, capping a 4-0 weekend by defeating Huron Valley White 11-1 in five innings Sunday at Sabourin Field.
News Photo byJames Andersen
Alpena’s 10U baseball team celebrates after winning the 2014 Cal Ripken State title on Sunday at Sabourin Field. The win advances Alpena to the Ohio Valley Regional in Indiana later this month. The Alpena 10U team is: Mathew Thompson, Noah Marquardt, Everett Zann, Ryan Lee, Keegan Hahn, Cooper Bright, Trevor Marwede, Blaise Keller, Mikey Gumtow, Ben Nowak, Alex Cadarette and coaches Tim Marquardt, Dave Keller, Dave Nowak and Bill Bright.
The win marks the second straight state title for this group of players and advances Alpena to the Ohio Valley Regional in Indiana later this month.
Alpena won the state title last year in part because of its good collection of talent and edged Howard Township 3-2 in the title game. But the coaches knew there was still a great deal to improve on and further chemistry to develop to prepare for this year's tournament. It paid off in spades as Alpena returned eight players from last year's team and won all of its state tournament games this year by mercy-rule.
"We learned a lot from last year and many of the fathers and coaches got together and worked these boys all winter long because we knew we had to be better, especially when it comes to regionals," Alpena coach Dave Nowak said.
Cooper Bright led Alpena with three hits on Sunday and Noah Marquardt had two hits and three RBIs. Alex Cadarette added two hits and two RBIs and Ben Nowak also had two hits. Everett Zann and Michael Gumtow each had a hit and Mat Thompson had an RBI. Keegan Hahn added a hit and an RBI.
On the mound, Marquardt, Hahn and Ryan Lee all contributed to the win and combined to allow just one run and two hits.
After Nowak and Bright singled to begin the game, Marquardt doubled them home and Cadarette followed with an RBI single. Cadarette later scored on a fielder's choice to give Alpena a 4-0 lead. Alpena tacked on three more runs in the second inning after Nowak scored on a passed ball, Hahn singled home Gumtow and Cadarette flew out to score Hahn.
Alpena's control of the game was limited to offense. Marquardt pitched a 1-2-3 first inning and Alpena turned a double play in the second inning. With one out and runners on first and second, Nowak snagged a groundout, stepped on third base for one out and fired to Bright at second base to end the inning and strand to the two runners.
Alpena's chemistry may have been in its infancy last year, but it was on full display Sunday and over the weekend as it outscored its opponents 79-5 and made all the necessary plays.
"Last year we competed against teams that had 80-100 games in together as a team and we formed the team last year and the only games they'd played together going into regionals, were the five (tournament games). Now we're up in the 35-game range," Nowak said.
After being held scoreless in the third inning, Alpena added a trio of runs in the fourth. Marquardt had an RBI double, Thompson had an RBI and Cadarette came home on a passed ball to give Alpena a 10-0 lead.
White finally got on the board in the bottom of the fourth inning. Blake Iceberg led off the inning with a single and later scored on an RBI single to make it 10-1.
Alpena sealed the deal in the next inning though as Bright singled, stole second and then scored on a passed ball as the attempted pick off throw sailed into the outfield. Lee earned two quick outs in the bottom of the inning before surrendering a single and fanning the final batter to send Alpena into celebration on the mound, knowing that a return trip to regionals was booked and another state title secure.
"I think we're in a lot better shape going into regionals than we were last year. I would say twice the team we had last year, it's the best team I've ever been a part of," Nowak said.
James Andersen can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.