Mitchell Post 18’s record is unblemished in July.
Since losing three of its five games at the Hladky tournament in Gillette, Wyoming, Mitchell has rattled off six straight wins, capped by a 6-3 victory over Renner Post 307 on Tuesday.
The win streak, which comes after losing seven of its prior 10 games, pushes Post 18’s record (24-14) to 10 games over .500 for the first time since 2017. The turnaround for a veteran-filled team wasn’t sparked by adjustments on the field, rather its mentality and focus being more locked in to start the final month of the season.
“It flat out comes down to caring and wanting your season to go as long as possible and to be playing well at the end of the year,” Mitchell coach Luke Norden said. “It comes down to guys wanting to be out here and playing well.”
Delivering at the plate
Mitchell’s deep lineup has paid dividends since returning from the Hladky tournament, where it averaged 3.3 runs per game in its final four contests.
With a better approach at the plate, Post 18 has 17 extra-base hits as its plated 10.3 runs per game, including 32 runs in a doubleheader sweep of Sioux Falls East Post 15.
“It comes down to focus at practice about executing what we’ve been working on,” Norden said. “When you get to the plate, knowing you’re not trying to do too much and wanting to hit the ball hard, obviously, but having a really good plan and execute what you’ve practiced.”
That’s been seen by the recent nine-game hitting streak of Carson Max, who had to adapt to seeing more off-speed pitches and fastballs on the outside part of the plate. With an emphasis on driving the ball to the left-center field gap, he’s recorded two home runs and 15 RBIs during his streak.
The Mitchell outfielder’s recent success has also been due to overcoming a mental hurdle.
“I’m not putting any pressure on myself to do anything special,” said Max, who will walk-on at South Dakota State University next season. “I feel I put too much on myself with the commitment of where I’m going next year, and I really wanted to perform. Now, it’s just going out to play.”
Max has hit .419 with six home runs and 36 RBIs this season, but also mentioned Mitchell’s production up-and-down the lineup. Brady Hawkins leads the team with 47 hits and 44 RBIs, while Peyton Nash has 42 hits and Carter Max has three home runs.
“When some people are having bad games, others are there to pick them up,” Carson Max said. “It’s not an all-or-nothing, where we all play good or we all play bad. We’ve had a steady consistency of people picking each other up.”
Post 18 enters the Gopher Classic in Bloomington, Minnesota, scheduled to play five games in three days, but with the potential for more if it makes it out of pool play. It begins play on Friday against Lakeville South (Minn.) and Omaha Skutt (Neb.).
Mitchell is coming off a favorable schedule of games, too. Since it played Renner on Tuesday, Jackson Sadler, who allowed three earned runs in a complete-game effort, will be able to start on Sunday.
“It works out great that we played on Tuesday,” Norden said. “Guys who threw on Sunday and Monday, it’s a good pattern of games we had going into the weekend.”
Mitchell’s hot offense will receive a challenge, too. Carson Max expects to see pitching in the mid-to-high 80s, giving it another chance to prepare for the state Legion tournament on July 26-30 at Cadwell Park.
“I think it’ll be great,” Max said. “We haven’t seen much 85-plus (mph pitching) all summer. We might roll into the state tournament and see that, so it’d be nice to see that pitching this weekend.”
Despite being an out-of-state tournament, Post 18 does have experience against a couple of its opponents, such as Omaha Skutt and Osseo (Minn). Still, Norden has high expectations if Post 18 can carry its recent play into Minnesota.
“We have a good chance to make it to Monday if we continue to play well,” Norden said. “... Going out and wanting to perform well is a big thing, and we’re doing a good job of that right now.”