Kernels looking to keep bats hotThere haven’t been huge power numbers for the Mitchell high school baseball team this year. In 17 games, the Kernels have 15 extra-base hits with one home run. Obviously, the state’s switch from aluminum to wood bats in high school baseball is changing Mitchell’s offense, but the team is still finding ways to score runs.
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic
There haven’t been huge power numbers for the Mitchell high school baseball team this year.
In 17 games, the Kernels have 15 extra-base hits with one home run.
Obviously, the state’s switch from aluminum to wood bats in high school baseball is changing Mitchell’s offense, but the team is still finding ways to score runs.
Mitchell (12-5) is averaging about 6.5 runs per game this year and has 107 hits, 92 of which are singles.
“One of the main reasons we’ve been playing well is because our offensive is playing well,” said Mitchell coach Luke Norden, whose team will have had a five-day break between games by Saturday. “Offensively, we’ve been doing a lot better things overall. We’ve had better approaches at the plate.”
In the last six games, Mitchell has scored at least six runs four times, including a season-high 20-run performance in a regional win against Rapid City Central on Sunday. Mitchell had six extra-base hits in the game.
Seth Cavanaugh and Josh Schmidt each have three doubles this year to lead the team. Cavanaugh and Jared Schmidt have the team’s only two triples and Brent Havlik’s grand slam in Rapid City on Sunday has been the team’s lone homer.
But power hitting is not what will win the Kernels ballgames. Or at least they shouldn’t expect every game. Mitchell, which has a team batting average of .257, is stringing singles together, drawing walks and getting hit by pitches to get on base and produce runs.
Norden admitted his team has watched too many pitches at times this year, accounting for 81 strikeouts and averaging about five per ballgame. But even those have been covered up by the amount of walks (93) and hit by pitches (23) Mitchell has earned free bases with.
Through 17 games, Lakin Neugeabauer is leading the team with a .368 average. He’s one of five players who have a .300-plus average at the plate. The others are Jared and Josh Schmidt, Zach Bennett and Calvin Limberg.
“Our batting average has slowing been rising,” Norden said. “We need to keep focusing on good approaches at the plate and being aggressive when the ball is in the strike zone.”
Norden said he’s been most impressed with how the offense has taken advantage of pushing runners home when they have a guy on third base. Mitchell has recorded 80 RBIs, with the team lead held by Jared Schmidt’s 18.
This weekend, Mitchell plays four games at Cadwell Park in Mitchell. On Saturday, the Kernels host Sioux Falls Washington at 1 p.m. and Huron at 5 p.m. Then they host Yankton in a doubleheader Sunday, starting at 2 p.m.
Norden is hoping his team’s offense will keep rolling to the end of the season, as there are 10 games before the regional tournament, held in Mitchell on May 19. A win in the regional tournament would give the Kernels a berth to the state tournament for the second straight year.
“We’re going to have some good competition,” Norden said. “We haven’t talked about any goals in particular, but I’d like to score as many runs as possible in every game we play in.”