Mitchell, SF East clash in first round of Legion 2A tourneyFor now, the Mitchell Legion baseball team has bragging rights over Sioux Falls East.
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic
For now, the Mitchell Legion baseball team has bragging rights over Sioux Falls East.
On July 11 in a doubleheader at Cadwell Park, Mitchell’s Derek Miller and Jacob Rice earned complete-game, one-run victories over East, the same team Post 18 plays in the first round of the Region 2A tournament today.
Mitchell (33-19) is the No. 2 seed in the tournament, playing third-seeded East (31-17) at 2 p.m. at Cadwell Park in Mitchell. The five-team tournament sends the top two teams to the Class A state Legion tournament, which starts Aug. 1 in Aberdeen.
Strong starting pitching has been one of the main factors in helping Mitchell Post 18 win 21 of its final 31 regular-season games. This season, Mitchell has gotten 21 complete-game performances, and starting pitching will be a major factor in the double-elimination tournament.
“You don’t go out expecting complete games,” Mitchell coach Luke Norden said. “You expect guys to go chew up some innings, but some of the games we’ve thrown in the last couple of weeks … they’ve been way more than we can ask for.”
Norden wouldn’t name a starter Monday evening for today’s first-round game, and he said everyone is available to pitch in the tournament. Mitchell has gotten four complete games from Evan Mastel, Kirby Fuerst and Michael Sadler this year. Rice leads the team in ERA at 2.42 in 22 1/3 innings pitched, while Sadler, Mastel and Fuerst all have ERAs below 4.
East is sending right-hander Jack Gordon to the mound. Gordon (6-1) has a 2.03 ERA and did not face Mitchell in the doubleheader. He has 32 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings pitched this year.
Sioux Falls East coach Chris Janish knows the importance of starting pitching this tournament, which runs through Thursday. He said the main reason Mitchell swept the doubleheader was because of Post 18’s starting pitching.
“The two games we played against them … they threw two kids that attacked the zone and threw strikes,” Janish said. “They made us put it in play, and when we did that we hit it right at their guys. They made some good plays. Offensively, we just didn’t have a good night.”
Mitchell pitchers will have to deal with three future NCAA Division I baseball players again today. East’s lineup includes Connor Schaefbauer, Alex Schultz and Jon Hander.
Schaefbauer, who has a .491 batting average with 24 extra-base hits, will be playing collegiately for the University of Minnesota; Schultz is going to Nebraska-Omaha and batting .461 with 24 extra-base hits and 54 RBIs; and Hander, verbally committed to the University of Kansas, is hitting .439 with 39 RBIs and 16 extra-base hits.
“Those guys are the ultimate team players,” Janish said. “They’re fun to coach, but they’re not guys that are satisfied with where they’re at. They’re always looking to get better.”
If Mitchell is looking to move past East and its impressive batting lineup, it will need to get some offense going early. Post 18 has outscored its opponents 178-118 in the first four innings this year.
Jared Schmidt is leading Mitchell’s offense with a .476 batting average, 18 extra-base hits and a region-best 55 RBIs.
“For him to stay at that clip for this amount of time is pretty impressive,” said Norden, whose team has won 13 of 16 games in Mitchell this summer. “I’d like to see his numbers compared to some of the other region team’s guys.”
The winner of the Mitchell vs. Sioux Falls East game will play the winner of a game between Sioux Falls West and another first-round matchup. Yankton and Valley Springs are playing at 11 a.m. today to play West, the region’s top seed.
The loser of the Valley Springs vs. Yankton game will play the loser of the Mitchell vs. East game at 8 p.m. in an elimination game today.
“The thing that scares us about Mitchell is they’re so consistent,” Janish said. “I don’t know if they lull you to sleep, but they’re just so consistent. Even if they’re down a run or two, they grind the at-bats out and play fundamentally sound.”
Sioux Falls West, No. 1 seed
Record: 35-19 overall, 7-1 in region play.
Coach: Joel Sage.
First-round opponent: Bye; West will play winner of Yankton vs. Valley Springs game in second round at 5 p.m. today.
Probable starter: Dusty Haffeman is 6-1 on the year with one save. He has a 1.59 ERA and has struck out 45 batters in 51 innings.
Top hitters: Nick Mimmack, .377, 39 RBIs, 3 HRs; Christian Rasmusson, .360, 18 RBIs, 7 2Bs; Connor Grove, .394, 19 RBIs.
Coach’s comments: “I could see any two teams from our region getting into the state tournament,” Sage said. “I’m not going to make any predictions about my own team. This season has gone well for us and we’re happy with where we are now.”
Mitchell, No. 2 seed
Record: 33-19 overall, 4-4 in region play.
Coach: Luke Norden.
First-round opponent: Sioux Falls East, 2 p.m. today.
Probable starter: Unknown. Norden said everyone is available for the tournament, but wouldn’t name a starter Monday evening.
Top hitters: Jared Schmidt, .476, 55 RBIs, 19 stolen bases, 18 extra-base hits; Josh Schmidt, .328, 34 RBIs; Derek Miller, .321, 16 RBIs.
Coach’s comments: “I think for us, we’re looking at it as a must win every game from here on out,” Norden said. “You’ve got to have that mentality come playoff time.”
Sioux Falls East, No. 3 seed
Record: 31-17 overall, 4-4 in region play.
Coach: Chris Janish.
First-round opponent: Mitchell, 2 p.m. today.
Probable starter: Jack Gordon, a right-hander, is 6-1 on the year. He has a 2.03 ERA and has 32 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings pitched.
Top hitters: Connor Schaefbauer, .491, 37 RBIs, 24 extra-base hits; Alex Schultz, .461, 54 RBIs, 24 extra-base hits, 5 HRs; Jon Hander, .439; 39 RBIs, 16 extra-base hits.
Coach’s comments: “West is as good as it gets in this region,” Janish said. “They’re the No. 1 seed for a reason. They’re head and shoulders above us. All the teams in this region are really good.”
Yankton, No. 4 seed
Record: 19-19 overall, 2-6 in region play.
Coach: Rob McClemans.
First-round opponent: Valley Springs, 11 a.m. today.
Probable starter: Alex Wagner, right-hander, is 3-3 on the year. Wagner has a 2.70 ERA and has 32 strikeouts in 50 innings pitched.
Top hitters: Nik Davis, .431; Evan Schroeder, .375; Alex Mueller, .344.
Coach’s comments: “Our starting pitcher, Alex Wagner, threw a perfect game for us at the Gopher Classic,” McClemans said. “He’s had an up-and-down first half of the season, but has thrown better as of late.
“We don’t have a lot of power through our lineup. We’ve done a lot of small-ball things. As long as we get quality pitching, our defense has been there throughout the year.”
Valley Springs, No. 5 seed
Record: 27-21 overall, 2-6 in region play.
Coach: Grant Hieb.
First-round opponent: Yankton, 11 a.m. today.
Probable starter: Jacob Bruget, a righty, is 2-1 with a 3.02 ERA. He has 35 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings pitched this year.
Top hitters: Dylan Rock, .385, 17 RBIs; Jacob Adams, .325, 42 RBIs, 8 HRs; Trevor Crow, .343, 10 stolen bases, 29 RBIs.
Coach’s comments: “We’ve been playing well as of late, but we didn’t do real well in the region,” Hieb said. “We’ve won seven of our last 10 games. In this tournament, we need to throw strikes and take care of the baseball.”