In a summer turned upside-down with the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 season for the Brookings Cubs saw them make it back to the Class A amateur baseball state championship game for the first time since 2012, all while not playing a single game in Brookings due to construction at Bob Shelden Field.
Brookings played the entirety of its home schedule in nearby Aurora at Langland Field, being welcomed with open arms by the City of Aurora and the Aurora Aces amateur team.
Despite the home venue change and road-heavy schedule, the Cubs posted a 23-4 record last season, winning the Sioux Empire League with an unblemished 7-0 mark.
In the North District Tournament, Brookings pitched a pair of shutouts, defeating Aurora 15-0 and Aberdeen Circus Sports Bar 14-0 to advance to state as district champion.
Unfortunately for the Cubs, the 2020 state tournament started the same way as the 2018 and 2019 tourneys.
Brookings suffered an opening-round loss to the Brandon Rats, sending it into the losers’ bracket after just one game. But unlike the previous two years, the Cubs clawed all the way back through four consecutive elimination games to get to the championship.
But in the title tilt, despite matching the Sioux Falls Brewers in hits with 11, the Cubs committed five errors, hit into three double plays and allowed all seven Brewers runs to score with two outs, falling 7-2.
After closing as state runners-up, the Cubs are itching to take that final step and reclaim a seat at the top of the championship mountain, a throne that Brookings hasn’t sat upon since 2002.
Brookings returns nearly the entirety of its 2020 roster, with only pitcher Marcus Heemstra not returning to the team.
One thing the Cubs can do is score runs. Lots of them.
The team swatted 23 homeruns in 2020 and scored just over 11 runs per game.
Sam McMacken (.468 AVG, 5 HR, 42 RBI), Jeff Fish (.350 AVG, 7 HR, 34 RBI), and Ty Schneider (.392 AVG, 3 HR, 33 RBI) are back to anchor the middle of the lineup, while Jake Anderson (.391 AVG), Tyler Kreutner (.377 AVG), Austin Koenig (.346 AVG), Jacolby Anderson (.338 AVG), Todd Standish (.304 AVG) and Jared Tschetter (.301 AVG) also return.
The Cubs’ pitching staff is anchored by returner Joey Texley, who accumulated a 6-2 record and a 3.56 ERA while striking out 35.
Jacolby Anderson (2.41 ERA, 32 K), Jake Devine (2.67 ERA, 65 K) and Kyle Krogman (2.46 ERA) will all climb the hill for the Cubs this summer as well, with Justin Devine, Jacob Schoon, Tanner Shepardson, Kreutner, Noel Burgos and Tschetter all set to log innings.
The Cubs also welcome some new faces to the team this summer: Brookings grads Rhett Zelinsky and Mason Winterboer, Andrew Polly, Evan Miller and Drew Talberg.
And the doors are still open for any last-minute additions to the squad, as well.
As for the lay of the land in Class A, the reigning state champion Sioux Falls Brewers are no more … sort of.
The Brewers relocated to Harrisburg over the winter and will now be known as the Hops. But while their name may have changed, the majority of the bodies in their new blue and green jerseys will remain the same.
The Hops’ move to Harrisburg leaves just one amateur team in Sioux Falls – the Flying Squirrels. The Renner Monarchs, Brandon Rats and Baltic River Dawgs make up the remainder of the now six-team Sioux Empire League.
The Sioux Falls Saints – who did not field a team in 2020 – officially folded earlier this year. The Vermillion Grey Sox dropped out of the SEL to join the more geographically friendly State Line League.
Across the state, North District teams Aberdeen Circus Sports Bar and Castlewood Ravens return for 2021. Former North District team Aurora was granted Class B eligibility. They will continue to play in the Eastern Dakota League.
Out west, four teams will comprise the Black Hills League – three from Rapid City and a fourth based in Sturgis.
The Cubs have a home-heavy schedule in 2021, hosting 15 regular season games. Additionally, the Cubs Invitational makes its return this summer for the first time since 2011. The three-day tournament runs from May 21-23, utilizing both Bob Shelden Field and Langland Field in Aurora, and welcomes 11 other teams to Brookings from across South Dakota and Minnesota.
Brookings was also awarded the first round of the Class A state tournament for 2021, which will be held at Bob Shelden Field on Aug. 6-8.
The Cubs open their 2021 season at home this Saturday hosting the Pipestone A’s at 7 p.m.
Brookings will also be hosting a free youth camp for children in grades 1-6. Pre-registration is required.
For more information on the camp and the Cubs as a whole, check out their website, www.brookingscubs.com, or follow them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram: @brookingscubs.
Season passes are on sale for $30 each and are good for any of the Cubs’ regular-season games as well as the Cubs Invitational. Season passes will not be valid for any state tournament games. Passes may be purchased at the gate.
Beer sales will also be provided this summer at all games to patrons of legal age.