SIOUX FALLS -- It didn’t matter that Mitchell was facing top-seeded Brandon Valley and first team all-state pitcher Dylan Kirkeby. Its mindset was to, “think every time you’re better than the guy you’re going up against.”
And on Saturday at Sioux Falls Stadium, the No. 5 Kernels (22-6) played like it, topping the Lynx 5-3 to advance to the Class A state baseball championship game. They’ll face the winner of No. 2 Sioux Falls O’Gorman vs. No. 11 Sioux Falls Roosevelt at 5 p.m. tonight.
“Our guys were extremely focused,” Mitchell coach Luke Norden said. “Everybody knew their role going in and what we needed to do.”
Mitchell’s mindset was evident at the plate, as it kept battling despite only recording four hits. It used its past experience against Kirkeby to score five runs between two innings.
With the game tied at 2-all in the fourth, Carson Max drew one of the Kernels’ four walks, followed by Max Schoenfelder’s RBI single. A hit and two hit by pitches set Mitchell up for a three-run inning, which proved to be the difference.
“(We) did a phenomenal job having a good plan,” Norden said. “And having that gritty attitude of, ‘I’m better than you right now and I’m going to show you.’ ’
While Mitchell was able to score five runs on four hits, it limited Brandon Valley from having a big inning of its own with timely strikeouts and groundouts.
“Huge damage control,” Norden said. “... We had a couple strikeouts when they could’ve put the ball in play and gotten a guy home from third.”
With runners on the corners and one out in the second, Jared Miller struck out Hunter Marso for the second out. The Lynx (22-7) flew out to end the inning in the next at-bat, keeping the game tied at 2-all.
Drew Kitchens worked out of a couple of jams, too. After relieving Miller in the fifth, with runners on the corners and no outs, he struck out Will Brown before a fielder’s choice and pop out limited the Lynx to one run. He forced Marso to fly out with two outs and the bases loaded in the next inning, too, ending the day with three scoreless innings.
“(Miller) battled through and did a good job getting us where we needed to be to bring someone else in,” Norden said. “We’ll still be able to bring (Kitchens) back in the second game if need so.”
Miller allowed three runs (two earned) in his four-inning start to earn the win. Jackson Sadler, Ryan McGinnis and Calvin Hegg all drove in a run. Cole Siegfried went 2-for-2 with an RBI for the Lynx.