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Mitchell hosts regional baseball tournament today

By LUKE HAGEN The Daily Republic On Friday afternoon, the Mitchell high school baseball team was preparing for its regional tournament in a light, steady rain at Drake Field. The tournament, which will be held at Cadwell Park, starts at 11 a.m. t...

Brent Havlik
Mitchell's Brent Havlik looks toward the plate during a game earlier this season against Sioux Falls Lincoln at Cadwell Park. (Luke Hagen/Republic)

By LUKE HAGEN

The Daily Republic

On Friday afternoon, the Mitchell high school baseball team was preparing for its regional tournament in a light, steady rain at Drake Field.

The tournament, which will be held at Cadwell Park, starts at 11 a.m. today when the Kernels host Rapid City Stevens. In another semifinal game, Sturgis plays Rapid City Central, a game that is scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m.

The winners of the semifinal games meet at 4 p.m., with the winner getting a berth to the state tournament.

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Mitchell coach Luke Norden said he wasn't exactly sure who would start on the mound in the day's opening game, but said he had it narrowed down to either senior Nick Young or junior Brent Havlik.

Young and Havlik have the most experience on the mound for the Kernels this year.

Havlik, a lefty, has a team-high 29 1/3 innings pitched this year with a 2.63 ERA. Havlik started the first game of Mitchell's regional doubleheader with Stevens on April 25, a 12-2 win where Havlik threw a complete game and struck out four batters.

Young started the second game of the doubleheader. He struck out seven and never allowed a Stevens base runner past second in a 6-0 win. Young, a right-hander, has thrown 25 1/3 innings this year and has a team-best 2.21 ERA among pitchers with at least 10 innings.

"They both have a lot of quality innings," Norden said. "But it's going to be one or the other."

Mitchell is 5-1 in regional play this spring, which earned the team home-field advantage for the regional tournament. Mitchell swept Central and Stevens, and split a doubleheader with Sturgis.

Mitchell (12-10) defeated Watertown 8-4 Thursday at Drake Field to break a four-game losing streak. The streak started on May 11 when Young turned in a quality start, pitching five innings and allowing two earned runs in a 4-1 loss to Brookings.

Havlik's quality start on May 13 was the third game of the losing streak. He threw 5 1/3 innings and allowed two earned runs in a 5-3 loss to Yankton at Cadwell Park.

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In the two games combined where Young and Havlik gave the team quality starts, Mitchell had eight hits.

"I think our pitching is going to be just fine," Norden said. "If we get ahead like we did (Thursday against Watertown) and score some early runs and continue to put on pressure, playing from ahead has been key for us all year long."

Mitchell's leading hitter has been in the No. 7 spot in the lineup for much of the year. Sophomore catcher Michael Sadler is tops on the team with a .383 average among the regular starters. After Sadler, Jared Schmidt is hitting .368 and Ryan Buck is at .360. Young, the team's No. 3 hitter, has a team-high 17 RBIs and is hitting .329.

"As long as we get three or four guys in the lineup that are producing at the same time is the important thing," Norden said. "Struggles that have happened this season are we get two guys that do something and then two guys that don't. We need three or four or five guys together to string something together."

If Mitchell fails to make the state tournament Saturday by winning its region, it still has a chance to qualify to play for the state title. Norden said Mitchell is in No. 3 position statewide for the wild card with its 11 wins against Class A opponents. The wild-card game takes the top two Class A teams, which aren't already qualified for the state tournament, meaning if Mitchell doesn't win its region today and either O'Gorman or Brookings win its region, Mitchell earns a spot in the wild card.

In Norden's tenure coaching high school baseball, his teams are 1-2 in the wild-card playoff.

"If we don't win (today), there might be the case that we don't deserve to get in the state tournament anyway," Norden said.

Last year, Mitchell failed to make the state tournament by losing in the wild-card game to O'Gorman, which eventually went on to win the state title. Mitchell's last state high school championship was in 2009.

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According to the National Weather Service, there's a 20 percent chance of rain today. However, Norden said if weather postpones games or changes schedules, the first round could be played on Cadwell Park and Drake Field.

Related Topics: BASEBALLKERNELS
Luke Hagen was promoted to editor of the Mitchell Republic in 2014. He has worked for the newspaper since 2008 and has covered sports, outdoors, education, features and breaking news. He can be reached at lhagen@mitchellrepublic.com.
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