SIOUX FALLS -- It was an emotional postgame for Mitchell on Saturday at Sioux Falls Stadium.
Not just for its 11-4 loss to Sioux Falls O’Gorman in the Class A state baseball championship game, but also with it being Drew Kitchens’ final game as a Kernel.
Mitchell coach Luke Norden described him as the “heart and soul of our team,” while Max Schoenfelder said he was the, “leader on the field and the one who cheered everyone up.”
“Just knowing someone else will have to fill his shoes, for what he means and what he’s done for our program has been huge,” Norden said through tears.
After Mitchell accepted its trophy, the team picture and Norden’s postgame speech, Kitchens and his coach sat next to each other in the dugout. Norden had his arm over Kitchens’ shoulder, who was now wearing a black hoodie but was still visibly sad as teammates walked by.
“Just going to miss being here everyday with the boys,” Kitchens said. “Just having all that fun throughout the summer is something I’m really going to miss.”
Kitchens did as much as he could at the plate, going 2-for-4 with four RBIs, and in the field to try to help Mitchell dig out of a 10-run hole. However, a 10-run third inning was too much to overcome as the Knights blew open a 1-all game to make it 11-1.
O’Gorman sent 15 players to the plate, recording six hits and four walks. Its big inning was highlighted by Tate Wishard’s grand slam over the left field wall, making it 7-1 at the time.
“(O’Gorman) did a really good job on Koby (Larson’s) curveball,” Norden said. “It was just one of those deals where we couldn’t get out of it.”
Mitchell was able to end the inning when Schoenfelder entered the game with it trailing 11-1 and one out. With a mindset of throwing strikes and trusting his defense, he recorded the final two outs en route to 3 2/3 shutout innings.
“The defense made a lot of plays out there,” Schoenfelder said. “(O’Gorman) pretty much put the ball in play every at-bat. But everybody was making plays out there. It was awesome.”
Facing a 10-run deficit, the Kernels simply wanted to chip away at the lead. They did so in the fourth inning by loading the bases with no outs. An error and RBI singles from Kitchens and Calvin Hegg, who had two hits, with two outs cut the lead to 11-4.
However, Mason Crow, who was named the tournament’s MVP as O’Gorman won its first state title since 2012, didn’t allow Mitchell to score again. He struck out four over a five-inning start, while going 3-for-3 with two RBIs at the plate.
“I don’t think (Crow) overpowered us by any means,” Norden said. “We just dug ourselves too much of a hole in that one inning.”
Brady Brosz suffered the loss, allowing three runs (two earned) over two innings. Koby Larson gave up eight earned runs in 1/3 innings.
“We’ve just come out here and played our game,” Kitchens said when asked to sum up Mitchell’s 22-7 spring season. “And just tried to be the best team we could be and trust in each other.”
Mitchell starts its Legion season on Tuesday at Watertown.