The Mitchell High School baseball team snapped a three-year drought on Saturday.
The Kernels secured a spot in the Class A state tournament with a pair of wins at Cadwell Park in the Region 4A tournament, which was moved from Sturgis to Mitchell due to snowy weather. Mitchell knocked off Rapid City Central 14-1 in the first game, while it booked a trip to state with a 8-3 victory over Rapid City Stevens in the region title.
It's the first trip to state since 2015 and puts another feather in the cap for Mitchell's senior group, which has also played in the last two state Legion tournaments.
"This is the team that probably I have coached more games with," Mitchell coach Luke Norden said. "Just this group of seniors and just the amount of seniors since they were freshmen. Good for those guys to play so many innings and just since they were freshmen to all retain everybody that's been there. It's nice for them to have the rewards and benefits of this."
Mitchell will play Brandon Valley at noon on May 25 in the opening round of the state tournament at Sioux Falls Stadium. The Kernels will enter the tourney on a seven-game winning streak.
"It just feels like a huge payoff," Mitchell senior Drew Kitchens said. "We have been out here grinding and busting our butts to get to this spot and today when it all came true, it just gets us to the next level and hopefully we can go compete at state."
After coasting in the first game, Mitchell used a four-run fifth inning to break open the game against Stevens.
"We started to get stuff to fall and that was a huge thing," Kitchens said. "We just tried not to get frustrated and just be calm and collected and we manufactured some runs."
Stevens' starter Carter Thomas kept the Kernels in check before the fifth inning. He finished with four strikeouts and allowed seven hits and five earned runs in 4.1 innings of work.
"Their guy did a good job of throwing off speed and he was sneaky with his fastball after some good off-speed stuff from him," Norden said. "He kept us off balanced. He really went out there and competed."
Brady Brosz started for Mitchell, but Kitchens closed out the game on the mound.
"It was great to be out there and pitch and trust my defense and know that they always have my back, just like I have theirs," Kitchens said.
Koby Larson and Calvin Hegg each had two hits, while Kitchens, Peyton Nash, Carson Max, Max Schoenfelder, Jackson Sadler, Ryan McGinnis and Brosz each had a hit.
The Kernels finished with 11 hits.
"First and second games we did a good job of hitting in all situations and all counts and all outs and whatnot," Norden said.
In the first game, Jared Miller picked up the win after striking out six batters and allowed two hits. Carson Max knocked in four runs on three hits, while Sadler drove in three runs.