Kernels boast high hopesWith four games West River this weekend, the Mitchell Fastpitch softball team is getting an early look at this season’s “AA” competition.
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic
With four games West River this weekend, the Mitchell Fastpitch softball team is getting an early look at this season’s “AA” competition.
The Kernels open their season Saturday in Rapid City against Stevens, which is one of the eight schools that compete at the “AA” level come state-tournament time.
Mitchell, which took fourth in the “A” state tournament last season, could possibly be bumped to the “AA” tournament at the end of this year, head coach Jim Misiaszek said.
“And our expectations this year are to compete for that state championship,” he said. “Our team’s confidence level is high and I’ve seen what they’ve done against some of the other “AA” teams last year. We are capable of competing with everybody, because in the last two years we’ve competed with everyone.”
Mitchell is in its third year of having a varsity fall-ball team and fourth year of overall existence.
And even though the team could make the jump in divisions, seven seniors are giving Misiaszek the confidence of going after a state title.
“I think this is the most athletic team we’ve had in our short history,” Misiaszek said. “Each one of our seniors has been here since the beginning.”
Two of the team’s three top returning hitters are seniors, one of which is Mitchell’s ace.
Junior Andrea Sheppard-Kauwalu — who hit over .300 last season — has the highest returning average, while the team’s ace Kelli Schlimgen and utility-player Ellen Bucher, both seniors, have the next highest returning averages.
Other seniors on the team are Daniele Bruscher, Natasha Stern, Chelsea Berg, Dezare McGuire and Samatha Kayser.
Misiaszek said Sheppard-Kauwalu, Kayser and McGuire will also compete for innings in the circle, but Schlimgen will get the bulk of the innings.
“She’s our most experienced pitcher,” Misiaszek said. “She has good location with her pitches and is a power-pitcher.”
Senior dominance is nothing new for Mitchell.
It graduated three from last year’s team that went 9-11 and all three are playing collegiately this year.
Kristin Miller and Chelsea Moody are both playing at Dakota State, while Ashley Misiaszek is at Northern University.
Also on Mitchell’s roster are juniors Kaleigh Rolle and Macie Harris and sophomore Courtney Moore.
To start its 26-game schedule, Mitchell plays six games Friday through Sunday.
It opens at 6:30 p.m. (CDT) Friday in Rapid City against Stevens and then plays at 8:30 p.m. against Central.
Saturday, the Kernels play at 10 a.m. (CST) against Stevens and plays Central at 11:30 p.m., and they finish the weekend with two games in Sioux Falls Sunday.
They play Lennox, which was last year’s Class A state runner-up, at 12:30 p.m. Sunday at Sherman Park in Sioux Falls and wrap up the weekend with Harrisburg at 3:30 p.m.
“It’s great to start the season, because it’s so fast,” Misiaszek said. “It’s great for team building, and it will test us early to see where we’re at.”