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McCook/Miner Legion baseball playing in 5th straight state tournament

TABOR -- The fifth time's the charm. That is the belief of the McCook/Miner Legion baseball team this weekend as it will make its fifth straight trip to the Class B State Legion Baseball Tournament Friday through Tuesday in Tabor.

McCook/Miner (17-8) plays Castlewood/Clear Lake at 10 a.m. Friday.

While McCook/Miner returns just one player from the team that went 1-2 in last year's Class B state tournament in Webster, coach Derrin Miller said his team has as good a chance as any to win a state title.

"We just need to keep playing the way we have been playing all year," Miller said. "We play outstanding defense and if we continue to do that we will see what happens."

The run of recent success for the McCook/Miner Legion baseball team, that features players from Howard, Salem and Canova, started in 2010 when the team first qualified for state.

Marshall Miller, Derrin Miller's son, is the lone returning player, who has previous experience playing in the state tournament for McCook/Miner and is currently the team's leading hitter with a .350 batting average.

Luke Loudenburg, who is the team's catcher and leading pitcher with an ERA under one, is also providing the offense some pop with a .320 batting average. Tim Gassman is the team's second leading pitcher and plays shortstop while batting .300.

Miller, who is in his third year coaching the team, said those three players have led the team to a successful season and they are hoping to end the year on a high note.

"There was nobody that we couldn't have beat this year," Miller said. "If we would have played a little better and hit the ball better we would have won those games."

The Class B State Legion Baseball Tournament will feature eight teams in a double elimination tournament ending with the state championship game at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Miller said he knows every team had to earn its way into the tournament, but he's only concerned about his team's performance.

"I don't know how good all the teams are in the state tournament because we didn't play them all," Miller said. "I don't believe there will be anyone there who is better than us when we play at our strongest. If we can hit the ball, I think we will win a lot of games."

Other first round games at the tournament are Madison vs. Parkston; Piedmont vs. Groton and Dakota Valley vs. Tabor.