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COMPETITIVE EDGE

—Messenger file photo by Dana Recker The St. Edmond baseball team celebrates after winning the state championship in 2009. The Gaels went 35-3 and claimed the state title with a win over Dyersville-Beckman.

Everything just clicked for the St. Edmond baseball team in 2009.

The recipe for success began in second grade and the group that had been playing together for their entire careers fulfilled their date with destiny.

The Gaels staked their claim as the best team in the state, winning the school’s first and only state baseball championship that summer.

“The 2009 team had great comradery. I think we had nine or 10 seniors which we all played together on the same travel team since probably second or third grade,” said 2009 St. Edmond graduate Jon Flattery. “We were a group that expected excellence and relied on each other to be accountable for our work.”

With nine seniors on the roster, who had been playing the game together since they were youngsters, there was a bond that was unbreakable.

“We were fortunate to have eight seniors really contribute that year along with some underclassmen,” said 2009 graduate John Engler who was a second-team All-State selection. “Our senior class had been playing baseball together since second grade. We never played on separate AAU teams, only with our school team which was coached by our dads.”

It was evident on the field that there wasn’t one dominant player for St. Edmond as everyone built a strong relationship and was able to come together.

We had eight seniors on the team that really wanted to do something special,” said 2009 graduate Joe Flattery who was a first team All-State selection. “Billy Mann was a great athlete for us growing up but had an unfortunate injury going into high school. He was finally healthy our senior year and his excitement to finally play could be felt throughout the whole team.

“That provided all the energy and focus we needed.”

The Gaels started the season 3-2 before reeling off a 24-game winning streak. The win streak was snapped in a tight loss to Eagle Grove, but then head coach Joe Shanks believes that was a loss that helped pushed them to the state title.

“We had a 24-game win streak and then we lost to Eagle Grove,” Shanks said. “I think that loss came at a good time. We were upset after that loss, but it woke us up and we were able to refocus.”

The Gaels had a balanced attack at the plate and on the mound. They hit .384 as a team with 27 runs, 291 RBI and stole 76 bases.

Jon Flattery led the team with nine home runs as Joey Flattery had seven and Engler had six.

“We were relaxed and had fun, but also took competing very seriously,” Jon Flattery said. “We had some amazing teammates which became huge role players. There wasn’t a weak spot in the lineup.

“What made the group go was probably a combination of a lot. I think we were a little sour from playoff losses in football and basketball. We then got a taste for winning at state track, and knew that a championship was attainable and how it felt.”

Heading into the season, Engler felt that there was definitely a chance for a state crown.

“Every single person on that team had a role that ultimately led to our team’s success,” Engler said. “We had success in other sports that same year by making it to state (football, basketball, tennis, and track), so all of us had experience on a big stage. That definitely gives you more confidence. We really thought we had something special going into the baseball season.

“As seniors, we knew this was going to be our last chance at a championship, so that certainly provides additional motivation. I think what made us dangerous was the fact that our lineup could hit. At that time, I believe we had set the state record for most hits in the state tournament.”

The Gaels were strong in the batters box, but what they accomplished in the pitching circle helped carry them to the title.

“We had a deep pitching staff,” Engler said. “Our staff was full of guys who loved to compete and were mentally tough. While we were always supportive of each other, None of us wanted to be out-performed by the other. I think that made us a better overall unit. That championship was the culmination of all of those years playing together and a lot of hard work.

“It was really special to share that moment with life long friends.”

Jon and Joe Flattery along with Engler were the leaders of the staff. Joe was 11-0 with a 1.60 ERA, while Engler was 10.0 with a .097 ERA. Jon was 7.2 with a 1.30 ERA and Mann was 5.0. As a team the Gaels struck out 329 batters.

“We had a long winning streak going,” Joe Flattery said. “No pitcher wanted to be the one who ended it. We had played together for so long that we all knew what to say to each other to make sure the pitcher was ready to go that day.”

At the state tournament the Gaels knocked off Council Bluffs St. Albert in the quarterfinals and then pulled the upset over top-seed Solon in the semifinals.

“Offensively the last couple of weeks we got dialed in,” Shanks said. “They were dialed in and showed that at the state tournament. Offensively we were on fire and the pitching was there. We two lefties and a big 6-foot-6 guy throwing down hill.

“I’ve heard stories about those guys playing driveway basketball and the loser went away mad. They were competitive against themselves but also cheered themselves on.”

In the championship game everything came together for the Gaels as they defeated Dyersville-Beckman for the state crown.

“I would give a lot of credit to our parents that coached us and made the game of baseball fun,” Jon Flattery said. “We never played an excessive amount of travel tournaments or practiced more than a couple of times a week growing up.

“The game was always social as well as something that we looked forward to as kids. It never felt like work.”

Joe Flattery, who went on to play baseball at Kansas State remembers how fun that season was.

“I was on some really good teams at Iowa Central and Kansas State, but nothing was ever more fun than winning the state championship with the guys you grew up with,” Joe Flattery said.

Everyone knew how good the Gaels were on the field, but what they were off of it, was what Shanks remembers the most.

“The results on the field are what they are, but the make up of these kids was unbelievable,” Shanks said. “They competed and practiced and had positive attitudes. Not just in baseball, but everything they did. The kids that played and the kinds on the bench had a competitive edge. That team took more batting practice on the side by themselves and they wanted to compete.

“They were good academically and good citizens. Once in a blue moon you get a team like that. They earned everything they got. They had the willingness to sacrifice everything for each other.”

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