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Post 18 excited for lengthy homestand in July

Post 18's Koby Larson fires over to first after recording the on Yankton's Caid Koletzky for the out at third during the first game of a doubleheader on June 28 at Cadwell Park. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Mitchell’s Post 18 Legion baseball team is starting the season at 14-18, with work to do in the month of July.

However, Mitchell will toe the rubber at Cadwell Park a lot in July as it prepares for the Legion Regional tournament on July 25-27 in Sturgis.

Mitchell hosts seven of its eight opponents, excluding the Gopher Classic in Minnesota, this month, which is up from just two home July games last summer. In total, Mitchell plays at home 14 times this season.

“Our summer schedule is awesome. It just worked out that way, that they bunched up,” Post 18 manager Luke Norden said. “We were supposed to travel a lot in the spring as kind of a trade-off for the summer, but the way it got worked out with the weather (we didn’t travel as much). I don’t think we’ve ever had a summer where we’ve had this many home games.”

The lengthy homestand won’t change Post 18’s practice schedule. In fact, the biggest factor is the weather cooperating on days Post 18 plans to practice.

Norden also mentioned the homestand being a great opportunity for his pitchers to start in front of a home crowd.

“I do prefer pitching at home because our crowd is great, and I’m more comfortable on Cadwell’s mound than any mound probably in the country,” Baley Miller said.

Developing pitching

This summer, Norden hasn’t been afraid to expand his pitchers’ roles. As a result, 10 pitchers have thrown double-digit innings compared to only eight reaching that mark last summer.

“We’re getting guys different roles and different innings, and our sophomore class has been outstanding coming in and throwing the innings they’ve been able to throw,” Norden said. “It’s been really beneficial to have guys being starters and relievers.”

Norden says having nine starting pitchers, who are also used out of the bullpen, allows him to see which roles they thrive in before the Legion Regional tournament. It helps that Norden lets his pitchers work through jams, as he only wants to use two pitchers on most nights.

“Guys have done a great job, and they understand I can’t run four guys out there every game,” Norden said. “To be able to get through a game with two guys has been great.”

Post 18 hasn’t had to go to the bullpen often when Baley Miller pitches, though. He’s pitched at least five innings in four of his five starts this summer. Norden attributes Miller’s 17 strikeouts in 26 innings and team-best 2.42 ERA to his consistent attitude off the field.

“My main focus on the mound would just be to throw strikes and keep pounding the zone for our team, and then let the defense make plays for us,” Miller said.

Patience at the plate

Between walks and hit batsmen, Mitchell has been given 195 free bases this season, but the best might be yet to come.

“I think you’re going to see us draw more (walks), see more bases like that the whole way through just because we’re getting better situational and a lot better plan, a lot better focus,” Norden said.

Along with a better approach, Norden said Post 18 has tried to shorten their swings to limit strikeouts. It’s helped as Carter Max, Koby Larson, Jackson Sadler and Drew Kitchens all have more walks than strikeouts this summer.

Kitchens has earned the most free passes on the team, due to his 13 walks and being hit by 15 pitches in 29 games.

“I’m not going to get out of the way,” said Kitchens, when asked about being hit. “My dad taught us when we were young not to get out of the way. Ever since then, I just stand there and take it.”

Max and Larson have each been hit by nine pitches, as well.

“Since I’ve been coaching, we’ve had a lot of guys that take a lot of pride in being tough about stuff,” Norden said. “It’s just awesome how much these guys care and how much they want to win.”

Mitchell Post 18 hosts Aberdeen at 6 p.m. today at Cadwell Park.