Despite losing six seniors from a season ago, the Mitchell High School club baseball team is feeling good about the spring season.
That's because the Kernels return a plethora of experience, including 12 letterwinners. MHS head coach Luke Norden said his team has plenty of pitchers with crucial varsity experience. The Kernels were 20-8 in 2017 and were knocked out in the regional championship game at the hands of Sioux Falls Roosevelt, the eventual Class A state champions.
"I'm really happy with what we have back on the mound," Norden said. "Defensively, we have a pretty experienced infield at the key spots. We'll have to fill our outfield, replacing guys that had been out there for four years. But it's about guys coming in and not trying to do everything but do enough to make us successful."
Leading the Kernels pitching staff will be Briggs Havlik, Baley Miller, Jared Miller, Calvin Hegg, Koby Larson and Jackson Sadler. Havlik led the team in innings pitched during the spring last year. Havlik tossed 39 2/3 innings, going 4-1 with 23 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.76. Max Schoenfelder, Drew Kitchens and Carson Max each saw plenty action on the mound last year between the spring and Legion seasons.
"We've had guys get a lot of experience they last two years and even some playoff experience," Norden said. "I'm excited to start playing. We're not trying to win every game in April, we'll try to get some arms going and keep guys fresh."
At the plate, Norden said his team won't have as much power or speed as it did last year, but added the team will find ways to score runs. Kitchens was second on the team in hits last spring with 26 and he added six doubles, 21 runs scored and 18 RBIs.
"We're getting back into the routine right now," Kitchens said about the season. "We want to go out and play hard and get a couple of wins."
Mitchell opens the season against Brookings on Tuesday at Cadwell Park. The Kernels are scheduled to play 18 games on 12 dates in April. The regional tournament will be played May 19 at the top four seeds around the state, while the state tournament is set for May 26 in Sioux Falls. Class A baseball no longer has set geographical regions, instead the 16 teams will be seeded and split into four different pods, with the top seed in each region hosting a four-team regional tournament with the winners advancing to the state tournament.
Sioux Falls Roosevelt and Legion baseball state champion Pierre are two teams Norden said stand out above any others. He added Sioux Falls O'Gorman, Sioux Falls Washington, Watertown and Brookings are all teams that could have strong seasons.
"It'll be interesting to see with the power point system," Norden said. "It'll be interesting to see what teams do with pitching and how we matchup. It's always good to see the opponents' best arms because it helps us out in the end of the year."