A first for Albert Lea

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 22, 2005

EAGAN &045; They were the first to do it, and now the

2005 Albert Lea Union Center 12 and Under Traveling Baseball Team will always be known as one thing &045; a state champion.

The group of hard working kids put together an impressive run through the MBT State Baseball Tournament last weekend, and came back with the state championship trophy.

Email newsletter signup

It is the first state championship for the city of Albert Lea.

Success is nothing new to this group of kids as they took third place in the same tournament last year before taking the final step last Sunday.

&uot;I think Sunday (the championship game) showed the mental improvement of this team, but other than that these kids have just gotten physically better and really hit the ball well,&uot; said head coach Jack Rovang.

The team got its tournament run off to a great start Friday with a 16-1 drilling of Rochester.

Saturday, the Albert Lea team downed Woodbury 8-2 in its first game.

That was followed by the first real test for the club in its game with Eagan.

Albert Lea found itself down 5-3 in the fourth inning, but came back to win 7-6.

Against Cottage Grove, Albert Lea would dig itself a 4-0 hole going into the fourth inning, but once again it would make up that deficit and then some winning the game, which goes six innings, 8-5.

Sunday began with what Rovang called his team’s &uot;best game of the tournament&uot; because of the outstanding defense it played against Hillcrest.

After jumping out to a 4-0 lead the team cruised into the semifinals with a 7-0 victory.

Albert Lea made both the semifinal and championship contests anything but dramatic.

The team downed Apple Valley 15-3 to punch its ticket to the finals.

Orono proved to be no match for the 12 and under squad which scored five runs in the second inning on its way to a decisive 11-2 win to capture the state title.

&uot;Sunday’s games were the best we had played all year,&uot; said Rovang.

&uot;The kids knew they had to win to move on and that is what they did.

&uot;We are a better hitting team than we were last year and we knew we had one really good pitcher, but we had several kids step up and do very well.&uot;

The squad, which sports a 33-4 record, still has a tournament in Mason City July 30-31 and a doubleheader against Austin on Aug. 7 before concluding its season.