The Mitchell High School softball team is experiencing a youth movement this season, as eight of its 15-member roster are freshmen. However, head coach Jim Misiaszek thinks his team's youth could help coming off a 1-23 season.
"As far as putting (last season) behind, the freshmen don't know any different," Misiaszek said. "That's the neat thing, the freshmen are coming in with a clean slate. It's up to my seniors to lead and teach the younger girls how to win."
Misiaszek said his five seniors have immediately embraced their leadership role.
Despite only one win last season, Mitchell's seniors are talented. Pitcher Tori Misiaszek, who is Jim's daughter, and shortstop Hannah Sibson were named first team all-state in 2017, and outfielder Jordyn Cranny was named to the second team. Third basemen Haley Linke and outfielder Rahni Vaughn, who played sparingly last season, are Mitchell's other two seniors. Both are expected to see significant playing time this season.
"(Younger) girls are following, and the (seniors) are leading by example," coach Misiaszek said. "The best players should be the hardest workers, and so far they have been. I'm really excited about those returners to calm down a very young team."
Tori Misiaszek is slated to be Mitchell's ace again and expected to pitch in at least one game of every doubleheader this season. That said, the Kernels also have the option of turning to a stable of younger players to put in the circle, including freshmen pitchers Keirstyn Krcil, Jacey Linke and Kate Nash.
"A lot of those freshmen are going to get a lot of playing time this year, so I like their energy and their enthusiasm," coach Misiaszek said. "They're a hard-working group and talented, but they're going to have to mature pretty quickly."
For a young Mitchell team to stay competitive against more experienced teams, Jim Misiaszek said the Kernels' focus heading into the season is playing faster. Some of Mitchell's freshmen played on younger summer teams this year, so they could be unfamiliar with the pace of play at the varsity level.
However, coach Misiaszek has been pleased with the progression thus far, saying his younger players are "energetic and learning."
"For these girls, the expectations that they have is to go out and compete every night and to get Mitchell softball back to where it has been in the past," coach Misiaszek said. "... Obviously they're going to have to mature quickly, but our goal is always to be playing our best ball at the end of the year."
Mitchell hosts Sioux Falls Roosevelt at 6 p.m. Monday at the Cadwell Sports Complex to open the season.