Kernels return 8 of 9 starters from last season

A promising Mitchell baseball team has eight of its nine starters back from last season, yet its one loss leaves a gaping hole in the team. Starting shortstop and the leading hitter on the team, Jason Schmidt, graduated last year, and sixth-year ...

Kernels start spring season
(Leah Rado/Republic) Mitchell second baseman Kyle Larson fires to first during last year's American Legion state title game in Aberdeen.

A promising Mitchell baseball team has eight of its nine starters back from last season, yet its one loss leaves a gaping hole in the team.

Starting shortstop and the leading hitter on the team, Jason Schmidt, graduated last year, and sixth-year head coach Luke Norden has been working on finding a patch to heal Schmidt's absence.

The Mount Marty freshman hit .429 for Mitchell last year and pitched 30 innings -- second on the team -- when he wasn't showing off his strong defensive skills at short.

This year, Norden said he's relying on sophomore Nick Young to step in and learn the position to take over for the next three years.

"Jason's going to be missed the most defensively," Norden said. "It's going to be important to have a shortstop for the next couple years, and with Nick being a sophomore, he'll be able to help us out in the future."


Young's older brother, Brett, is the team's most experienced player. Brett Young has seen varsity playing time since midway through his freshman year when he took over at third base.

Since then, Brett Young has stationed himself on the left side of the infield at third and filled in at short during games Schmidt pitched, and he will do so again this year when Nick Young sees time on the hill.

Last year, Brett Young batted in the No. 2 or 4 holes, and this year he will fill in the No. 3 spot, which was Schmidt's last year. He hit .318 during last year's spring season and had a team-high 23 RBIs.

As well as being a top offensive player for the Kernels this year, Brett Young will be the team's ace on the mound. "He throws a lot of strikes, and his best time of year is during playoffs where he has a lot of experience," Norden said. "The last two years in Legion he's thrown 20 innings and given up two earned runs in playoffs. He's a pretty big-game pitcher."

Brett Young helped Mitchell sneak into the playoffs during last year's spring tournament. He pitched a complete, seven strikeout, one earned-run game against Rapid City West in the state play-in last year.

He finished the season with a 3.03 ERA, a 6-1 record and was second on the team with 43 strikeouts behind only Schmidt.

Norden said all but three players on the 13-man roster are capable of pitching.

Pitchers who will see notable time include Cade Hearnen, Jordan Piper, Dustin Quasney and Steve Jackson.


Norden also listed Jamie Huber and Alex Bennett as two live arms that will be new to the team this year.

Aside from strong pitching depth, the Kernels will rely on a strong defensive outfield this year.

The team returns all three of its starters including Hearnen, the team's starting center fielder and leadoff hitter, Jackson and Alex Loes. Sean DeVries is the team's fourth outfielder who also saw playing time last year and will again this year when either Jackson or Hearnen are pitching.

"Those four are by far our fastest guys and capable of stealing bases at any time," Norden said.

Loes hit .351 last year in the spring, had an on-base percentage of .403 and stole 7-of-7 bases, which was the most on the team.

With Hearnen leading off, Norden said it's important to find a good two-hole hitter to take Young's place. He listed DeVries and Loes as top candidates.

"The last couple years we've done a good job hitting in any order," Norden said. "We've had production up and down the lineup. "

Catcher Kendall Patrick will be the team's normal cleanup hitter, and the rest of the lineup will change from day-to-day.


Like the outfield, the infield will look similar to last season with the exception of Nick Young taking over at short. Second baseman Kyle Larson led the team with three home runs last season and saw some relief time on the mound.

Splitting time at first will be Piper and Quasney. Piper hit .267 last year, while Quasney hit .261.

"We've got some pretty versatile guys who van play a lot of different positions," Norden said. "I thought we really improved from the first game we played from last spring to the last game of last summer."

The Kernels finished 12-9 last spring and lost in the first round of the state tournament to Aberdeen. During Legion ball, the Kernels went 31-27 and lost in the state championship game against Aberdeen.

The Kernels were scheduled to play Sioux Falls Lincoln Thursday in Sioux Falls, host Rapid City West Saturday and play in Huron Sunday. Thursday's game was canceled due to the field conditions after the winter weather, and the status of the weekend games are unknown.

Luke Hagen was promoted to editor of the Mitchell Republic in 2014. He has worked for the newspaper since 2008 and has covered sports, outdoors, education, features and breaking news. He can be reached at
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