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Alexandria returns to semifinals

Alexandria third baseman Pierce Smith fields a ground ball and fires to first to record an out in the third inning of a quarterfinal game against Larchwood during the Class B state amateur tournament Friday at Sioux Falls Stadium. (Aaron Saunders/Republic)

SIOUX FALLS — For the second straight year the Alexandria Angels will play in the Class B amateur baseball tournament semifinals.

The Angels (25-3) defeated Larchwood 4-2 Friday to reach the semifinals, where they will meet the Parkston Mudcats. The game begins at 7:30 tonight.

Last year, Alexandria fell to eventual champion Parkston Mudcats in the semifinals 6-1. Friday against Larchwood, Alexandria benefitted from a strong pitching performance from starter Cory Marek.

“We set our goals this year and said we wanted to improve on what we did last year,” Alexandria player/manager Chris Marek said. “Going back is great but we still have two more wins to get, and that is what we are focused on.”

Cory Marek carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning, where it was broken up by Travis Feekes, of Larchwood. Marek threw 7 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on one hit, walking five and striking out six. Trever Vermeulen closed out the final 1 2/3 innings with one hit and zero runs to earn the save.

The Larchwood hitters had problems figuring out Marek’s variety of fastball and off-speed pitches but managed to push across runs in the fifth and eighth innings.

In the eighth, Feekes scored on a groundout to second base. Alexandria second baseman Cole Wenande fielded the ball and threw to second to get the runner, but on the ensuing throw from shortstop Jordan Gau, the ball sailed over first baseman John Greicar, allowing Feekes to score.

Larchwood’s fifth-inning run came on a wild pitch. With one out, Marek threw a pitch which bounced in front of the plate and flew past catcher Chris Marek, allowing Dan Gacke to score the first run of the game for the Diamonds.

“I used my off-speed to really keep them off-balance,” Cory Marek said. “The defense was behind me the whole game, and we had the key hits when we needed them. They have three hitters who are really powerful, so I tried to stay away and keep it off speed and it ended up working out for me.”

Alexandria got on the board first with a two-out RBI single from Tyson Gau. Pierce Smith led off the inning with a deep flyout to center field, and Peyton Smith followed with a single up the middle. Wenande came up next and grounded into a force out at second base.

The inning looked to be coming to an end when Thomas Gulledge hit what looked like a routine ground ball to Larchwood third baseman Nick Meisinger. But Meisinger bobbled the ball, then made a throw, which pulled first baseman Vinny Smith off the bag. Gulledge slid into first base safely, while Wenande scampered to third. Tyson Gau’s RBI single brought Wenande across the plate.

Larchwood starter Travis Pugliese pitched eight innings, giving up four runs on seven hits.

“We got one heck of a good starting pitching performance,” Chris Marek said. “We saw a good pitcher so we did take advantage of the opportunities that we had. I would have been happier if we had more base runners, so we could have more scoring opportunities.”

The Angels scored again in the next inning on a two-RBI double by Peyton Smith, which scored Greicar and Pierce Smith. Greicar got the two-out rally started with an infield single, and Pierce Smith followed with a single, putting men on first and second.

Peyton Smith and Tyson Gau led the Angels offensively. Smith was 2-for-4 with two RBIs, while Gau was 2-for-4 with one RBI.