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Canova advances to quarters for second straight year

Canova’s Trevor Oswald throws out Crofton’s Scot Donner after Donner hit a ground ball in the third inning of second-round game during the Class B amateur baseball state tournament Wednesday at Sioux Falls Stadium. (Aaron Saunders/Republic)

SIOUX FALLS — For the second straight season, the Canova Gang are going to the quarterfinals of the Class B state amatuer baseball tournament.

Last season, Canova advanced to the quarters after beating Tabor 2-0. This time, the Gang again beat their opponent by a two-run margin.

Wednesday, Canova (19-7) defeated Crofton, Neb., 4-2 at Sioux Falls Stadium to advance to the quarterfinals, where it faces the Parkston Mudcats at 8 p.m. Friday.

“A few years ago (Crofton) beat us 3-2 at the state tournament in Mitchell, so it was our turn,” Canova manager Dave Gassman said. “It feels great to be headed to the quarters again. We are going to take it one game at a time. We have some big, heavy dominoes in front of us and we have to beat them to get where we want to be, and that is in the finals.”

Timely hitting turned into the Gang’s game-winning run. With two outs in the seventh inning and the game tied at 2, Canova began to rally. Trevor Oswald got the rally started with a single up the middle. He went on to score what would be the decisive run when Garrett Gassman stepped to the plate. Gassman hit a ball, which looked destined to drop right in front of right fielder Kyle Mueller’s glove, but Mueller dove at the ball and missed, allowing Oswald to score.

“Our hitting was definitely huge,” Dave Gassman said. “We left a couple of guys on base in scoring position and we didn’t get big hits. But if you keep putting them there, you are going to eventually get a few every now and then.”

The Gang was led by Oswald, Garrett Gassman and Nick Koepsell. Oswald was 3-for-5, Gassman was 2-for-5 with two RBIs and Koepsell was 2-for-4.

Canova had trouble figuring out Crofton starter Randy Thygeson as he sat down the Canova hitters with frequent regularity at the start. Thygeson cruised through the first three innings, before Canova, which was going through its lineup for the second time, strung together some hits.

The first Canova run came on a single to right field from the bat of Tucker Gassman, which scored Matt Burpee, a pick-up player from Madison. Burpee drew a leadoff walk to start the inning. Canova got its second run of the inning on an RBI double to right field by Koepsell, giving the Gang a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning.

Thygeson went nine innings, allowing four runs on 10 hits. He gave up three walks and struck out nine. Canova starter Jared Donahue threw eight innings, allowing two runs on four hits. He also had four walks and seven strikeouts.

“I was just trying to pound the strike zone and get ahead of hitters,” said Donahue, who threw more than seven consecutive innings for the first time this season. “I tore my labrum last August, so it means a lot to me to prove that I can do it again.”

Crofton got on the board first as Aaron Losing recorded an RBI single, plating Scot Donner. Donner reached base on a walk after Kyle Mueller led the inning off with a strikeout. The Blue Jays scored again in the fifth inning with help from a critical error by Canova shortstop Oswald. Alex Mueller led off the inning with a walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. He went on to score the second run of the game for the Blue Jays on a sacrifice fly from the bat of Nick Hegge.

Crofton is eliminated from the tournament, coming up short from last year’s championship game appearance.