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Injuries keep three Kernels out of lineup

Mitchell shortstop Megan Zephier catches a fly ball and looks toward the runner during a high school doubleheader softball game against Sioux Falls Roosevelt Monday at Cadwell Park Sports Complex in Mitchell. (Brooke Cersosimo/Republic)

Even with a slow start, Mitchell High School fastpitch softball coach Jim Misiaszek is optimistic about the season.

The Kernels (1-7) have been plagued by injuries so far this season and have been without three of its top players — juniors Hallie Misiaszek, Abby Sudbeck and Ellie Rew. Misiaszek and Rew are out temporarily with elbow and ankle injuries, while Sudbeck — an all-state first-team selection last season — suffered a knee injury during the summer and will miss the entire season. Jim Misiaszek hopes to have Misiaszek on the mound and Rew back in September.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for our younger players,” Misiaszek said. “These aren’t the most important games we play because everyone makes the state tournament. We get a real good look at other teams, and they won’t really see us.”

Even with the minor injury, Hallie Misiaszek — an all-state first-team selection and school-record holder for strikeouts in a season with 132 — returns as the team’s go-to pitcher. While she’s on the bench recovering, sophomore Andrea Konz and Madison VanWalleghen find themselves in the pitcher’s circle.

“With Hallie out, it allows us to get Andrea a lot of innings,” said Jim Misiaszek, adding Hallie can still hit while resting her arm. “It will be good work for her and our young pitchers.”

This season, the Kernels have two seniors in third baseman Jenna Skinner and utility player Alexis Blindauer. They’re followed by five juniors, three sophomores and one freshman. Mitchell lost four players to graduation, and they all went on to play collegiately.

With having lost four key players from last year’s team and suffering injuries, Jim Misiaszek said it would be easy to call this a rebuilding year. But he doesn’t see it that way.

“Every year we have the same goal, and that is to compete for and win a state championship,” he said. “When everybody is healthy or if they don’t get to that point, I think we have the talent to compete for a title.

“We do things a certain way here. We never have great starts and experiment with some things, but we make sure our kids are playing their best ball come end of September and into October.”

Misiaszek added his team has had power hitters in the past.

“We’re missing the long-ball aspect, but we’re going to have manufacture some runs differently this year,” he said. “I’m excited for this group.”

The Kernels — who finished second at state last season — were preseason ranked fifth out of 10 teams this year. Misiaszek added the ranking is a “fair assessment.”

He said he expects this year’s top teams to be Sioux Falls Washington, the defending state champion, Rapid City Central, Rapid City Stevens and his own Kernels.

Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.