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Sadler taking on leadership role

Mitchell Post 18 catcher Michael Sadler holds the baseball after catching a fly ball against Sioux Falls East on July 10, 2013, at Cadwell Park in Mitchell. (Daily Republic file photo)

Playing in a competitive environment is what Michael Sadler was seeking for his summer baseball season, and he has returned to a familiar spot to find it.

Sadler is back behind the plate and on the mound for the Mitchell Legion Post 18 baseball team this summer after his freshman season with Mount Marty College in the spring.

“I knew I’d come back,” Sadler said of his decision to return. “It’s another opportunity for me to get better. I feel like playing Legion is a little more competitive than playing amateur ball, with the extra games and the skill level.”

A rule set to expire at the end of the 2014 season allows players with a 19th birthday after Jan. 1 of the season year — which Sadler qualifies under — to play Legion baseball for another season, regardless of playing in college.

“Coming back, I’ve had three years of experience with this team,” Sadler said. “The guys on the team have been looking to me and asking for advice. I’ve been taking more of a leadership role.”

Post 18 coach Luke Norden said there has been talk among Legion officials that may allow the rule to continue so some of the smaller teams will be able to fill out a roster, but as of now, 2014 will be the last year for college players coming back. In his 11 years of coaching Post 18, Norden said he has had six or seven players come back from college to play in Mitchell, but has seen other teams in the past with as many as six such players on one team.

For Mount Marty in 2014, Sadler played in 21 games. He finished his freshman year with a .333 batting average in 30 at bats, with two RBIs. On the mound for the Lancers, Sadler was 1-1 with a 2.84 earned run average in 19 innings, while striking out 11. He was behind the plate for about one-third of the Lancers games in 2014 and got his opportunities to pitch as well.

Mount Marty finished seventh in the Great Plains Athletic Conference and pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the league’s tournament. Sadler and the Lancers topped the then-19th-ranked Northwestern College in the first round of the GPAC tournament at Cadwell Park in Mitchell.

“That was probably the highest point of the season for us,” Sadler said. “Just being out on Cadwell in front of family and friends was great.”

Norden is happy to have Sadler’s experience and production back on the field this season. In 2013, Sadler was a fixture at the catcher spot for Post 18. He hit .321 with 39 runs scored and 38 RBIs. He was 5-2 on the mound last year, with 37 strikeouts in 54 innings for a Mitchell team that finished the season 38-14.

“The older guys that have been around were excited about Sadler coming back,” Norden said. “He is out there learning every day and taking in what I have to say along with the rest of the team. The guys on the team look to Mike because of his positive attitude on the field.”

Norden added that Sadler has been involved with coaching the youth programs in Mitchell since returning from college.

Sadler has been coached by Norden in his four seasons with Post 18. Sadler credits his Legion coach for helping him become the player he is now.

“He has taught me so much and going into my sophomore year of high school, it was tough at times, but (Norden) helped me through it,” Sadler said. “He definitely has made me the player I am today.”

The 2014 Legion season is under way and Mitchell is off to a 3-1 start, splitting its most recent doubleheader against Gillette, Wyo., Saturday in Gillette.

Sadler is 3-for-5 in three games with a double and an RBI, while throwing five innings and picking up the win for Post 18 in the season opener against Sioux Falls East on May 28.

Mitchell’s game against Sioux Falls West scheduled for Tuesday was canceled due to weather and will be made up at 6 p.m. July 2 at Cadwell Park in Mitchell.