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Sunshine League to be competitive again

In August at the Class B state amateur baseball tournament, the Sunshine League had three representatives go deep into the later rounds.

The Alexandria Angels, Parkston Mudcats and Dimock/Emery Raptors all made the semifinals, with the Angels prevailing in the championship game. Two other Sunshine League teams -- Mount Vernon and the Parkston Rock Bass -- also qualified for the end-of-the-year tournament.

Dimock/Emery manager Brad Bartscher said the Sunshine League should be just as competitive this season.

"I think the league overall is going to be really strong again," he said. "Alexandria is the favorite but the Parkston Mudcats are going to be really tough as always. Those are the top two teams by far and the rest of us will all be competitive."

Sunshine League play kicks off today between the Mudcats and Angels. With the Angels winning last year's championship and Parkston winning the state title in 2012, the teams look to make a statement early on in the season. In the 2013 state title game, the Angels won on a walk-off single to lift Alexandria to its first-ever championship.

"I think there's just a strong, positive rivalry against Parkston," Alexandria manager/catcher Chris Marek said. "We get along but compete at the highest level. It makes for a fun game and good environment for the fans."

Both squads have all of their players back from last year's teams, and the Mudcats have added several players to their roster, including three Parkston Rock Bass players and former Dakota Wesleyan University standout Michael Lukkason. The Rock Bass program folded this season due to lack of numbers.

Other representatives in the Sunshine League are the Corsica/Stickney, Parkston Bullheads, Platte, Tripp-Delmont and Mitchell.

Mitchell is the only Class A team in the league, and after missing last year's state tournament, the Mad Dogs look to have an "incredible season" with many new faces on the roster.

The Mad Dogs, who open league play against Corsica/Stickney at 5 p.m. Sunday at Cadwell Park in Mitchell, have acquired a slew of DWU players.

"I believe we will have a pitching staff that we've never had in the past," Mitchell Mad Dogs manager Pat Skinner said, adding players Marty Takagi and Jason Skinner have played for the team since its first season 11 years ago.

Two other league games will be played Sunday, with Dimock/Emery playing the Parkston Bullheads at 2 p.m. in Dimock and Tripp-Delmont playing at Mount Vernon at 5 p.m.