Mitchell Post 18 continued to establish a winning culture in 2019.
It failed to reach a third straight Class A state title game, but topped 30 wins for a second straight season and took down Harrisburg Post 45, 5-1, in the opening round of the state tournament at Cadwell Park.
Post 18 finished the season 33-17, falling to eventual champion Renner Post 307 and runner-up Rapid City Post 22 after winning 14 of 15 games to start July. Despite a once-scorching hot offense being held to six runs in back-to-back losses, Mitchell still found itself a couple of timely hits away from being undefeated and still playing Monday.
“We’re two or three big base hits from being undefeated in the state tournament,” Mitchell coach Luke Norden said. “You look at the chances we gave ourselves getting on base. … You look at how close things were at the end of the season, that’s how baseball is -- a play here or there.”
Norden praised his senior-laden team’s focus and “never satisfied” attitude during the season.
A couple of “key conversations” to stay focused on the team’s success rather than individual slumps was all it took for Mitchell to better its 18-14 record heading into July. Post 18 outscored its opponents 149-56 in the final month of the season.
“From a season standpoint, I’d say we were never satisfied,” Norden said. “You look at sometimes when seniors maybe want to move on and be done, but our guys were never satisfied. Everyday they came to practice and were extremely motivated, so it makes my job a lot easier when guys have that attitude and motivation to continue to get better.”
Mitchell graduates seven seniors, but Koby Larson and Jackson Sadler both are young enough to return next season. However, Post 18 will have to find replacements for Carson and Carter Max, Jared Miller, Max Schoenfelder and Calvin Hegg, who won the state tournament’s Big Stick award.
“With the amount of success we’ve had the last couple of years, having a program expectation and not just a team expectation,” Norden said. “... I think these guys the last couple of years have taken that to heart, and I hope that continues with all the teams and players we have coming up.”
Mitchell does return experience to a team which has built an expectation to be a perennial threat, though.
Brady Hawkins led the team in hits (63) and RBIs (53) and sported a 1.38 ERA over 50.2 innings. Meanwhile, Peyton Nash scored a team-high 62 runs, Riley McGinnis (32) was one of seven players with at least 30 hits and Brady Brosz had a 3.87 ERA over 38 frames.
“It doesn’t matter how old we are, we’re going to go out and perform well,” Norden said. “Guys are expected to help us out and be exactly where we are every year, and not just have a good team every once in a while. Expect to be (in the state tournament) every year. And not just to be there, but to do very well.”