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Kernels play waiting game for playoffs

Mitchell's Drew Kitchens, center, celebrates scoring a run with teammate Bryce Geraets, left, during a game earlier this season at Cadwell Park against Sioux Falls Roosevelt. (Matt Gade / Republic)

The Mitchell High School baseball team has plans to return to the state tournament.

They will have to wait a little longer to potentially make that happen.

With wet weather in the area, the Kernels won't play today as was previously scheduled. Instead the Kernels will trek to Harmodon Park on Monday for the four-team regional. Top-seeded Sioux Falls Roosevelt (29-0) will meet Sioux Falls O'Gorman (9-19) at 5 p.m. at Field 2 at the complex, while second-seeded Mitchell (19-7) will play Yankton (4-14) at 6 p.m. on Field 3. The championship game is set for 8:30 p.m. at Field 2.

Regardless of Mother Nature, the Kernels enter the single-elimination tournament with the goal of erasing previous painful memories at the region tournament. A year ago, Mitchell was the No. 2 seed and lost to O'Gorman in a 2-1 contest in Yankton, a game that ended in just over an hour. The 2017 iteration of the Kernels are determined to not let that happen again.

"We know that it's win or go home and everyone's 0-0," senior Elijah Pommer said. "Everyone gets a clean slate and that's the approach we have to take."

Mitchell last made the state tournament in 2015 and has made it in the last four odd years (2009, 2011, 2013, 2015), which could perhaps be a good omen for this year's team.

More encouraging is Mitchell's ability to swing the bat as of late, scoring 26 runs in its last two games. The Kernels have scored 6.9 runs per game this season and is hitting .283 as a team.

"We've just done a much better job of executing up at the plate and a lot of the things we've been working on have been carrying over, which is nice to see," Mitchell coach Luke Norden said. "We know we have to score runs and our kids have been getting the job done lately."

It's been an up-and-down season for Yankton, which lost all four meetings with the Kernels this season. MHS won 7-3 and 16-15 at Riverside Field on April 29 and won by identical 6-0 scores on May 6 in Mitchell.

The Kernels are meeting Yankton because the Bucks took two out of three games from O'Gorman in the season series and finished with a better region record than the Knights, despite only having four wins on the season.

"We know we're going to be challenged," Norden said. "When we have the type of region we have, everyone is familiar with each other and that makes this type of tournament quite a challenge because really anything could happen."

Pommer leads the team in hitting at .397, while Jed Schmidt has a team-high 35 hits and 33 runs scored. Spencer Neugebauer leads the team in slugging percentage at .523. Jared Miller and Baley Miller each have four wins pitching this season, with Schmidt leading the team in strikeouts with 37. Briggs Havlik has thrown a team-best 32 2/3 innings and Koby Larson's earned-run average remains perfect after 13 relief innings pitched.

The region winner advances to the Class A state tournament, which will be played May 27 in Sioux Falls at Sioux Falls Stadium.