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Sports: Right back on the horse

The majority of Mitchell's Post 18 Legion baseball team played on the spring high school squad that just had its season end on Monday in a 1-0 loss to Yankton in the Class A state semifinals...

The majority of Mitchell's Post 18 Legion baseball team played on the spring high school squad that just had its season end on Monday in a 1-0 loss to Yankton in the Class A state semifinals

The players will get a quick turnaround from the high school season to the Legion season today when they play a doubleheader at Valley Springs. The first game will begin at 5:30 p.m. and the second is scheduled to start at 7:30.

Fourth-year Post 18 head coach Kent VanOverschelde gave his players Tuesday off and had the team practice on Wednesday indoors.

According to VanOverschelde, the biggest difference from season to season is the amount of time players have to dedicate to Mitchell's 55-game Legion schedule.

"It takes a lot of commitment and there's a lot of travel involved," VanOverschelde said. "A lot of the kids coach youth baseball during the morning and they don't have a lot of time off.

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"On the field, a lot of guys get more work on the mound. We have a true five- to six-man rotation in the summer. Kids usually get five days off between starts instead of a full week like in high school. Because of our depth, we have a lot of guys who can throw."

Mitch Grieve will start Game 1 today against Valley Springs and Cade Hearnen will throw the second game. Those two, along with Jason Schmidt, Kirby Oldenkamp, Trever Vermeulen, Mike Larson, Dustin Quasney, Alex VanOverschelde and Nick Wenande, will see the majority of the time on the mound. Oldenkamp, Vermeulen, Larson, Schmidt and Hearnen saw the majority of the time on the mound this spring. Oldenkamp and Vermeulen led the team in innings pitched for the Kernels.

"We've had some key No. 1 and No. 2 guys over the years, but this is our most solid staff I've had since I started. We're deep," VanOverschelde said.

Two high school players won't make the transition over to the Legion team. Austin Dorzak and Tanner Grove won't be on the Legion roster so VanOverschelde has added Quasney, Skyler Neugebauer and Alex VanOverschelde to it. Neugebauer is a catcher/infielder, Alex VanOverschelde is a pitcher/outfielder and Quasney is an infielder/pitcher.

The team will also be without third baseman Brett Young and Schmidt to start the season. Young is at a basketball camp and Schmidt is at Boys' State. When Grieve throws in Game 1 today at Valley Springs, Larson will play third, Hearnen will play short and Quasney will play second. When Hearnen throws, Grieve will move to short. Vermeulen, Oldenkamp, Beau VanOverschelde and Nick Wenande will stay in the outfield, Josh Wenande will catch and Trevor Salmonson will play first.

After going 19-1 and losing their only game at the state tournament, VanOverschelde is hoping there's no negative carryover affect to the Legion season. At Wednesday's practice, he said he saw a determined group of players that were ready to move on.

"Success is never permanent and failure isn't fatal," he said. "I saw the kids more focused than I've ever seen them swinging the bat and doing what is expected of them. With our experience during the high school season, I'm hoping we have consistent defense, solid pitching and are patient at the plate."

Post 18 doesn't have an easy start to its season. After Valley Springs, Mitchell is host to Yankton at 6 p.m. Friday in a nine-inning game and then travels to high school state champion Aberdeen for a doubleheader Monday.

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Another regular opponent on Post 18's schedule is Class B champion Parkston. Mitchell will play home-and-away doubleheaders with Parkston and will be at three of the same tournaments with the Milt Simons in mid-June, Dr. Robert McWhirter tournament in mid-July and the Lewis and Clark tournament in Yankton in early June.

Post 18 also has a doubleheader scheduled at South Central and home-and-away doubleheaders scheduled with Chamberlain.

"It's possible we could see Parkston seven times during the season. I'm excited about that," VanOverschelde said. "That's a good local rivalry to have and it makes it interesting to come out to the ballpark. It's good to have a relationship with local teams. It always creates a good atmosphere. Whether you're playing a Class A or B school, it's still competitive baseball. That's what we're looking for each time we go out and play."

VanOverschelde said the team's schedule is geared toward the Region 2A tournament in late July and early August. Mitchell is host to the tournament this year. Other teams in the region include Sioux Falls West, Sioux Falls East, Valley Springs and Yankton.

"You turn our 55-game schedule over and then it's all about that double-elimination region tournament," he said. "All of those teams are really good and have at least three quality pitchers. We have to be playing our best baseball when regions come around."

There's a period in Mitchell's schedule where it isn't home from June 25 to July 14.

The Dr. McWhirter tournament runs from July 14-15 at Cadwell. So far, Parkston, Pipestone, Minn., Rapid City Post 320 and a youth select team from Ontario, Canada, have committed to playing in the tournament. VanOverschelde said it's possible one more team could still be added to the round-robin event.

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