Mitchell once scored 34 runs in one game at the Legion state baseball tournament
“Everything Mitchell hit found a hole. My god, I just remember it was a long night.” -- Joe Schlimgen, one of the umpires working the game.
RAPID CITY — The game was so out of hand, the umpires started calling phantom outs.
On Aug. 1, 2009, at the state Legion baseball tournament, Mitchell seemingly couldn’t make an out against Rapid City Post 320. Hit after hit caused the scoreboard at Fitzgerald Stadium in Rapid City to light up like a winning slot machine.
In what is presumably a state tournament record for runs scored by one team in a single game, Mitchell — with its senior-heavy team similar to this year — defeated Post 320 in seven innings, 34-5.
“Normally when you get a big lead, it’s like guys shut it off a little bit when they’re like we’ve got the game won,” Mitchell baseball coach Luke Norden said Monday evening, recollecting the memory after he located the team’s old paper-pencil scorebook from 2009. “But our guys continued to go up to bat like we needed a big hit.”
This year’s state tournament kicks off Wednesday, with Mitchell playing its first-round game at 1:30 p.m. Central time, playing the same team at the same location as the wacky game nearly 13 years ago.
The 34-5 victory was played on a Saturday, one night after Fitzgerald Stadium was filled with around 3,500 spectators. Mitchell was fighting off elimination after it had lost to Rapid City Post 22 earlier in the tournament.
On Friday night, Mitchell knocked out Brookings, and the late game was the two Rapid City squads — Post 22 vs. Post 320. That night still remains the lone time Post 320 has defeated Post 22 — the 50/50 ticket raffle drawing was somewhere around $3,000.
Post 320 was guaranteed a spot in Sunday’s championship game after beating Post 22, so “they were on a really high note from the night before,” Norden said. “That had a little bit to do with the lack of focus headed into the game.”
Leadoff hitter Cade Hearnen opened the Mitchell-320 game Saturday evening with a single. A sacrifice bunt and a double led Mitchell to start its run of runs, sending 12 men to the plate in the first inning for a 7-0 lead.
It was extended 10-0 after 2 1/2 innings before Post 320 scored two in the bottom of the third.
Five runs in the fourth and eight runs in the fifth broke the game open for Mitchell.
“That night is definitely up there,” said Brett Young, who went on to play baseball at South Dakota State University. He tossed six innings that game with six strikeouts in 106 pitches. At the plate, he had four hits — including a fifth-inning grand slam — with nine RBIs. “Any time you get to play in the state tournament, it’s a highlight. But having a game like that there was just awesome.”
Late in the game, the umpires had enough. Legion games in 2009 were nine-inning contests, so the run rule was only in effect after seven innings. Joe Schlimgen, of Mitchell, was on the field as the third base umpire.
“What I remember most about that game is we had to call some outs that weren’t outs to get us out of there,” said Schlimgen, who has 47 years of baseball officiating experience. “Everything Mitchell hit found a hole. My god, I just remember it was a long night.”
One Mitchell runner got picked off first base when he was standing on the bag, Norden recalled. Two other runners were called out for “missing bases.”
Young remembers the mysterious outs.
“Who knows what the score really would have been?” he said.
Still, Mitchell batted 14 men and scored 11 runs in the sixth inning.
Kyle Larson led the team with five singles, Alex Loes and Young each had four hits and Sean DeVries had three including a triple to tally 16 of Mitchell’s 24 hits. The next day, the offensive production ran out and Mitchell was eliminated by eventual-champion Post 22.
The group is special to Norden, similar to this year, as it was loaded with experience. It’s not very often, he said, that Mitchell gets a big class of seniors.
“You go back and look at that (2009) squad, we had six or seven seniors that year. That was a big class for us to get that many guys, and we have 10 seniors this year,” he said. “I think the biggest resemblance is to get a larger class of kids to come through is really something. And this year is the biggest class that we’ve had.”
The 2009 team finished its season with a 31-22 record. Mitchell opens play at state this year 25-13.