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Dell Rapids Mudcats pitching trio provides the foundation for back-to-back titles

Dalton Lehnen, Kris Regas and Dalton Allen combined to pitch all but 1 1/3 innings for the Dell Rapids Mudcats at the 2022 state tournament, with their consistency a leading factor in back-to-back state titles.

Dell Rapids Mudcats pitcher Dalton Lehnen winds up to deliver a pitch during the South Dakota Class B state amateur baseball championship game against the Garretson Blue Jays on Sunday, August 14, 2022, at Cadwell Park.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic
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MITCHELL — The Dell Rapids Mudcats’ run to a second-straight Class B amateur baseball championship title played out much differently than its predecessor, though one unwavering constant kept the push for back-to-back titles in play.

An unparalleled pitching staff.

It’s on the backs, or rather the arms, of Dalton Lehnen, Kris Regas and Dalton Allen that a second consecutive run at a title was even made possible following an up-and-down season.

In the 2021 tournament, a 16-1 thrashing of Cornbelt rival Flandreau capped a five-game stretch during which Dell Rapids cut a wide swath through the 32-team field, scoring 57 runs at a clip of 11.4 per game.

The Mudcats scored just half that total — 29 runs — in the 2022 tournament and never eclipsed the eight-run mark, but the result was no different. Five games, five wins and a return to glory with the team’s third overall championship.


Though the offensive output was drastically decreased, Dell Rapids’ pitching staff gave up seven runs in 39 innings last August, with that total increasing only slightly to 11 in 46 innings this year.

“Honestly, I think it just comes down to our pitching,” Regas said of the 2022 title. “We know that between Dalton Lehnen, myself and Dalton Allen, we’ve got more arms than everybody else. As long as we don’t do things to snowball innings, we’re going to be able to outlast everybody else.”

Extra arms

For most South Dakota amateur baseball teams, having more than one standout starter is a welcomed bonus.

The Mudcats, however, boast no less than three: Lehnen, a 2017 sixth-round pick of the New York Yankees with multiple seasons of minor league experience; Regas, a 42-year-old who played 13 years of professional baseball across a variety of leagues, including the minors with the Detroit Tigers, on a lengthy baseball-related resume; and Allen, who racked up 18 wins to just two losses with a 3.75 ERA in four years at Augustana.

Dell Rapids Mudcats pitcher Dalton Allen delivers a pitch as second baseman Travis Peters looks on during the South Dakota Class B state amateur baseball championship game against the Garretson Blue Jays on Sunday, August 14, 2022, at Cadwell Park.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

In a year where the Mudcats struggled to manufacture offense at the same rate they did the season prior, having three quality options to throw out on the mound proved completely invaluable.

“We didn’t hit very well this year, but having guys to help us stay in ballgames where we may only need three or four runs to win takes a lot of pressure off of our hitters,” said Lehnen, who earned a second-straight tournament MVP award on Sunday after sharing the honor with Regas as co-MVPs in 2021.

A return earned, not given

Even with Dell Rapids’ pitching assets, a return to championship Sunday at Cadwell Park was far from predictable.

The Mudcats finished two games off the pace in the ultra-competitive Cornbelt League — tied with Canova and Flandreau behind Lennox and the league champion Hartford/Humboldt Gamecocks — and lost their first district game while in pursuit of state tournament qualification.


“We had struggles throughout the season. We went on a stretch where I think we lost five games in a row, several to teams we knew we should beat,” Regas recalled. “There’s a morale element to it, and morale was down some.”

Despite mid-season tribulations, the Mudcats had last season's experience to lean on and knew pitching depth put them in an advantageous position to make a deep run given the state tournament structure. Among the benefits of the previous year’s experience was the blueprint it provided Lehnen and Regas with regards to recovery facing ever-shortening breaks between contests.

A peek at the other side

Regas had to look no further than Dell Rapids’ opponent in Sunday championship, the Garretson Blue Jays, to see the tripping points for a pitching staff with fewer arms.

After Blue Jays ace Aaron LaBrie’s tank had run empty — he had also pitched 1 ⅔ innings in relief in Saturday’s semifinals — Garretson’s bullpen options couldn’t quite stack up to Lehnen and Regas, who spent plenty of time last offseason working out together at the Harrisburg baseball facility, where Regas is the director of player development and Lehnen is a coach.

Less than 48 hours prior to Sunday’s title game, Lehnen put the finishing touches on a 10-inning gem against Dimock/Emery that pushed Dell Rapids into Saturday’s semifinals where Regas tossed a complete game. The pair threw 136 and 121 pitches, respectively, yet were back at their best in relief on Sunday.

Allen got the championship start, where he tossed four near-flawless innings before the situation called for Lehnen to be inserted in relief. The impact was immediate, as he struck out three straight batters to retire the Garretson threat. Later in the seventh inning, he induced a key double play that ended another potential rally. Regas polished off the effort, getting a game-ending double play after just two pitches in the ninth.

Dell Rapids Mudcats pitcher Dalton Lehnen accepts the tournament Most Valuable Player award for the second-straight season following the Mudcats' win over the Garretson Blue Jays in the South Dakota Class B state amateur baseball championship game on Sunday, August 14, 2022, at Cadwell Park.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

Having put a total concerted team effort toward repeating as champions, Regas and Lehnen were in agreement that the two tournaments held different places in the hearts and minds of the Mudcats.

“I think last year the expectation was we were going to win this thing, and if we don’t that’s only falling short of expectations,” Lehnen said. “This year, we needed a lot of things to go right, and there were a lot of grind-it-out games like Larchwood (Iowa) in the second round and Dimock/Emery going to the 10th inning [in the quarterfinals] where we needed to dig deep.”


“We were talking amongst the guys about which one feels better, and this one was more difficult,” Regas added. “We had close games we had to battle through, so not that either one is actually better than the other, but last year we kind of beat up on everybody, so it was kind of cool to grind through it this year.”

Dierks covers prep and collegiate athletics across the Mitchell Republic's coverage region area, focusing on Mitchell High School football and boys basketball and area high school football, volleyball and basketball, as well as Dakota Wesleyan women's basketball. He was also the lead on the Mitchell Republic Gridiron Spotlight, producing video and providing live play-by-play for the traveling weekly prep football broadcast during its first season in the fall of 2021. Dierks is a Mitchell native who graduated from South Dakota State University with his bachelor's degree in journalism in May 2020. He joined the Mitchell Republic sports staff in August 2021. He can be reached at ldierks@mitchellrepublic.com and found on Twitter at @LDierksy.
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