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Mitchell Legion team begins road to state title

Mitchell catcher Michael Sadler makes a catch during a Region 2A tournament game against Brandon Valley July 24 at Harmodon Park in Sioux Falls. (Luke Hagen/Republic)

The Mitchell Legion baseball team has its schedule laid out through the World Series.

The road to the Legion World Series begins today at the State A Legion Baseball Tournament in Rapid City.

"If you don't put playoff tournaments on the schedule, your expectation isn't there," Mitchell Legion coach Luke Norden said.

Post 18 opens against Sioux Falls West at 6 p.m. Central time today in its quest for a state championship and berth to the Central Plains Regional. The double-elimination five-day tournament will conclude with Sunday's championship game. All games will be played at Floyd Fitzgerald Stadium.

Mitchell has played in the state tournament five out of the last seven years, missing the past two seasons.

Mitchell's tournament opener is a replay of its first-round game at the Region 2A tournament. Mitchell shut out Sioux Falls West 2-0 in the game. Post 18 earned a state tournament berth after defeating Brandon Valley in the second round and went on to win the Region 2A championship game, beating Brandon Valley once more.

Under Norden, Post 18 has won a regional title twice, with the other victory coming in 2008 when Mitchell won Region 1A. That year, Norden's squad made the championship game but lost to Aberdeen. Mitchell's last state Legion title was in 1999.

"In playing West again, you never know just for the fact that we're on a different field and there will be a different atmosphere," said Norden, whose team is 36-12 this season. "It's going to be a close game again and offensively, hopefully we do a better job than we did last time and get some things going."

Last time against West, Michael Sadler was dominant on the mound. Norden wouldn't release today's starting pitcher but said the pitching lineup is critical in five-day tournaments.

"We've got to look for potential starters for the middle and end of the tournament if we make it that far," he said. "Some teams get in trouble when you get further into tournaments, but we're pretty deep. We've got everybody wanting to throw better than the next guy, so anybody we've thrown out there lately has done a great job."

Mitchell has eight pitchers who have seen starts this season. Sadler, Derek Miller and Kirby Fuerst each have five wins for Post 18, while Dylanger Pierson and Josh Schmidt have four wins. Jacob Rice, who has thrown 32 innings this season, has an ERA of 2.20 to lead Mitchell, which has a team ERA is 4.05.

Offensively, Jared Schmidt leads the team with a .406 batting average. Post 18 also has eight others batting over .300 with Mitchell batting .316 as a team. Josh Schmidt leads the team in RBIs with 50.

Outfielder Aaron Sudbeck said the team feels confident heading into the state tournament.

"We need to play like we have been all year," said Sudbeck. "I think we can make a run if we do."

Joining Mitchell and Sioux Falls West at state are Watertown, Spearfish, Pierre, Aberdeen, Rapid City Post 22 and Brandon Valley. Brookings won the tournament last year, but did not qualify to defend its title this time around.

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