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Pitching key for MHS baseball team this season

Freshman Spencer Neugebauer tosses the ball to second base during double play drills at Mitchell High School’s spring baseball practice Tuesday at Cadwell Park in Mitchell. (Aaron Saunders/Republic)

Four returning players will be counted on to lead the young Kernel baseball team from the mound.

Derek Miller, Tyler Houwman, Aaron Sudbeck and Matt Larson all pitched in the lineup during last summer’s Legion baseball season.

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The Mitchell baseball team will look to that experience as the Kernels maneuver through the 2014 high school baseball season.

“It is real helpful to have that depth in the pitching rotation this season,” Mitchell baseball coach Luke Norden said. “In the spring season, you don’t need as many arms as you do in the summer time. Last year, Derek was one of our best pitchers in the summer, but he only threw 15 innings in the spring. He is going to be one of those guys that we are looking at to lead our staff.”

Senior Miller batted .326 as a junior and will attempt to lead the Kernels to a second straight state tournament appearance.

Mitchell’s season is scheduled to open up against Sioux Falls Washington at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Cadwell Park in Mitchell.

Norden said Sioux Falls Roosevelt, Brandon Valley and Watertown could be the three teams to beat this season.

“We only have five guys from last year who started, but we still had some guys gain a lot of experience,” Miller said. “I think the stronghold for us this year will have to be pitching and defense. We are going to have to hold teams to only two runs and give our bats a chance.”

The Kernels lost five starters from last year’s squad, including first-team all-state selections Michael Sadler, Jared Schmidt and Josh Schmidt. Mitchell also graduated second-team all-state selections Kirby Fuerst and Evan Mastel and all-region selection Seth Cavanaugh.

Losing players to graduation isn’t a concern for Norden, who said new players must step in and play.

“Anytime you lose that amount of seniors, you have a lot of innings to replace,” Norden said. “But we can’t worry about that. It is sort of like when someone is injured. You do what you have to do and move on. You just have to add in new guys and get better each game.”

Stepping into the lineup this year for the Kernels will be junior Landon Neugebauer at shortstop, junior Jacob Rice at second base, junior Ben Miller at third base, along with Houwman and senior Dylanger Pierson at first base. Freshmen infielders Spencer Neugebauer and Elijah Pommer could also see time on the diamond, along with junior Josh Armstrong.

Larson, a junior, will play numerous places for the Kernels. Norden said Larson could see time at catcher, in the infield or outfield for Mitchell. Norden also said junior Mitch Johnson, freshman Sam Michels or sophomore Carter Star could also see time behind the plate.

In addition to his duties on the mound, Sudbeck will play outfield along with senior Chase Harms and freshman Jed Schmidt will get time in the outfield.

“It is kind of hard to know what to expect,” Norden said. “But we have a bunch of new guys, who are mixing in well and doing what I ask them to do.”