Mitchell Post 18 feels it can play with anybody.
It went 2-3 at the Omaha Westside Classic over the weekend, but two of its losses came by one run. Post 18 now has four losses by three or fewer runs through the team's 7-7 start.
"We lost two games by one run," Mitchell coach Luke Norden said. "We were in every ball game. The biggest takeaway hopefully for our guys is we can play with everybody."
After competing in its first out-of-state tournament of the season, Mitchell won't leave Cadwell Park much until the Hladky Tournament on June 28-30 in Gillette, Wyoming. Starting with a 5 p.m. Wednesday doubleheader against Sheridan, Wyoming, Mitchell hosts 13 of its next 16 games.
It gives Post 18 a "distinct advantage," according to Norden, noting the benefit of sleeping in their own beds.
"We take care of business at home, we get to bed early (and) we do those kind of things because we don't have to worry about being on the bus and getting a head start to the games or staying up late and getting back from games," Norden said. "We should be well-rested and have that mentality that we're well-rested."
During this stretch, Mitchell plays seven doubleheaders, including six at home. However, it has struggled taking both games of twin bills this season. In six tries, Post 18 has just one sweep, with it splitting a doubleheader in Omaha on Saturday and being swept on Sunday.
"We just have to take one game independently by itself and have the mentality every single time we get a chance to put our cleats on," Noden said. "We have a good understanding of not getting to do this much longer and what am I going to be remembered for here at the end of the season and the stretch run of the state tournament."
Mitchell has taken advantage of its experience at the plate and the switch to metal bats. Over the weekend, it scored at least seven runs in all but one game, with it averaging 8.8 runs per contest this season.
Post 18 is hitting .339 with a .489 on-base percentage, but has also flashed power with six home runs, including a team-high three homers from Carson Max. In fact, six players already have double-digit hits and four have driven in at least 10 runs.
"I expected our bats (to be this good) with the experience we have," Norden said. "I thought our bats would be really good."
Post 18's lineup lost Drew Kitchens, who surpassed the 19-year-old age limit, and Austin Kerr to a shoulder injury, but it gained an immediate boost with the addition of infielder Brady Hawkins.
He leads the team with 19 hits (.432 batting average), 22 RBIs and five extra-base hits. Hawkins also hit a pair of home runs over the weekend, including a grand slam in a 9-4 win over Home Federal on Saturday.
"(Hawkins) brings a ton of power to our team, which you don't see that much power during the spring season due to the wood bats and we don't (have him) there," Norden said. "Just putting that guy in there for power numbers has been awesome."
Post 18's 'lackluster' defense
Norden felt Post 18 pitched well enough to win four of five games in Omaha. Although, it committed 11 errors, leading to seven unearned runs.
An error against the Millard South 52's scored the final run of a three-run second inning, while a one-out error in the sixth inning gave Pius X momentum after Mitchell's five-run inning. Post 18 lost by one in both games.
"We go out there and put up a zero (against Pius X), we probably win the game because we have a huge momentum shift," Norden said. "We go out there kind of lackadaisical defensively and not wanting to go out to make plays."
Despite playing in only half as many games, Post 18 has committed nearly the same amount of errors as during its spring season. Its "laid back" and "not aggressive" defense has 33 errors this summer, while it committed 35 in 29 spring games.
To turn it around, it starts with being more mentally focused.
"I didn't think our defense would be as lackluster as it's been, especially after a strong spring season with the defense," Norden said. "... Everybody in general-our whole defense-we've kind of taken not as aggressive of an approach. No matter where we're at position-wise, we need to have a better desire to get something down."