Kernels set sights on Roosevelt in state baseball semifinals – Mitchell Republic

MITCHELL – Two lost, two left.

The Mitchell High School baseball team started the postseason on May 21 at Cadwell Park with two wins in the regional play-in group, leaving the Kernels as one of four teams to contest the 2022 Class A state championship at Sioux Falls Stadium to pursue come Saturday afternoon.

Neither game was without its stressful moments as the fourth-seeded Kernels (17-7) defeated No. 13 Sioux Falls Jefferson 5-3 in their first round game before beating No. 5 Harrisburg 6-2 advance to their first state tournament since 2019. When the situation called for it, Mitchell capitalized on the maturity and experience it’s offered all season with a senior-filled roster. The kernels go into the weekend with confidence.

“Just to crush the bug right there and not let it linger – and we had some issues last year with not being able to let things go and get out of sticky situations – we’ve been able to do that countless times this year” said Mitchell trainer Luke North. “It was an indication of what we could achieve this spring with damage control and the ability to work our way out of situations. An experienced team takes care of that.”

Elsewhere, No. 1 Sioux Falls Roosevelt (18-1), No. 6 Sioux Falls Washington (12-10), and No. 7 Sioux Falls Lincoln (11-9) also earned their spots in the last four teams.

Since the bracket will not be reset before the semifinals, Mitchell will face the top seeded Rough Riders on Saturday afternoon. The other clash pits Washington, the 2021 runner-up and only program to return from last season’s four-team tournament field, against Lincoln, the No. 1 seed entering the 2021 postseason ahead of reaching the state tournament will be eliminated at about 2 p.m

While all three appeared as spring seasons on Mitchell’s original schedule, weather allowed the Kernels to only play one of those contests as scheduled — an 8-2 win in Washington on April 19.

Nonetheless, Norden believes the Kernels could benefit from not having played their semi-final opponents.

“If you look at some of the numbers, they’re about the same as us,” Norden said of the Riders, whose only loss was a 10-run rules loss to Brandon Valley. “…Obviously their record is a bit better than ours, but they’ve also had some close games, so they’re not invincible.”

“It’s probably a good thing that we got canceled later in the year because of the unknown,” Norden continued. “I think that’s how we like this matchup, just the unknown.”

Should Mitchell make the state title game, he also doesn’t expect the familiarity, or lack thereof, to matter much regardless of who would emerge from the Washington-Lincoln showdown.

Mitchell left fielder Brock Sparks throws the baseball back into the infield during the first game of a doubleheader against Harrisburg May 7, 2022 at Cadwell Park.

Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

Looking at Roosevelt, Norden sees a team that mirrors his own in terms of leadership and experience, and much like the Kernels, the Rough Riders needed to show championship to get out of the regional round.

Trailing 1-0, Roosevelt hit his first run in the state qualifier against Yankton in the sixth inning before winning 2-1 in walk-off fashion on a sacrificial fly in the seventh inning.

Meanwhile, Kernels’ regional games against Jefferson and Harrisburg provided a blueprint for postseason success – one that Mitchell will hopefully use again this weekend – anchored by two starting pitchers who have been terrorizing opposing lineups all spring.

Class A All-State first teamer Jake Helleloid and second-teamer Landon Waddell shone under a stacked pitching baton from Kernel. In the regional bracket, the pair averaged 11 1/3 innings and 18 strikeouts while conceding just five hits and three earned runs.

Both will be available to throw on Saturday and one will certainly start in the semifinals. North’s preferred result is a semi-final win without using the other for relief, and if the Kernels can make that happen, it could very well prove to be the difference.

“If we could do exactly what we did (in the region) last weekend,” North began, only partially letting the thought finish.

Mitchell now wants to fill the gap.

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