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'Played our baseball': Post 18 rallies for runner-up finish

On Sunday, Mitchell Post 18 finished second at state. That statement seemed far-fetched in early July. Post 18 was 14-19 in early July, but it went 9-2 to get back above .500. Mitchell finished with a 30-26 record and placed second in the Class A...

On Sunday, Mitchell Post 18 finished second at state.

That statement seemed far-fetched in early July.

Post 18 was 14-19 in early July, but it went 9-2 to get back above .500. Mitchell finished with a 30-26 record and placed second in the Class A state Legion tourney for the second consecutive season. Post 18 lost to powerhouse Rapid City Post 22 9-0 in the title game at Pierre's Hyde Stadium.

"We just weren't willing to let it all kind of lay out there," Mitchell coach Luke Norden said about early in the season. "We were a little timid and as that timidness wore off and toward the end of the year we started playing without being worried about things."

The turnaround started with five straight wins before the prestigious Gopher Classic in the Twin Cities. It also started with a team meeting, said shortstop Drew Kitchens.

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"We sat down and had a little talk and worked our stuff out that we needed to work out," Kitchens said. "Then July hit and we just found a way to put everything together and we just played our baseball."

Post 18 started playing its baseball at the Gopher Classic. Mitchell went 4-2 at the event and it continued to ride the momentum.

"We played a lot of teams we haven't seen and going into a big tournament like that, you know you are going to see good opponents," Mitchell's Brady Hawkins said. "We just said, 'We are going to go out every game and it give our best.' That's exactly what we did and what we have been doing since that point."

At the region tournament, Post 18 advanced to state with a runner-up finish. At the state tournament, Mitchell proved to be a tough out for the second straight season.

It defeated Brandon Valley Post 131 in the opening round and won elimination games against Sioux Falls Post 15 and Renner. Mitchell's two defeats at state were against Post 22, while its last four losses of the season were against the Rapid City squad.

Post 18 will lose Kitchens, Sam Michels, Baley Miller, Ryland DeVries and Jordan Dirkes from this year's team. Kitchens will be able to play baseball in the spring season, but he will be ineligible to play next Legion season.

"It's just an amazing experience and it's something I will never forget," Kitchens said about playing with Post 18.

Michels echoed Kitchens' sentiments.

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"It's really helped me grow as a man and coach Norden does a really good job helping all these guys just how to act as a person and how to act around other people and how to treat others," Michels said. "That's really like at the core of Post 18 is just being a good person. It's been awesome."

Next season, Post 18 returns Hawkins, Carson Max, Carter Max, Jared Miller, Jackson Sadler, Koby Larson, Austin Kerr and Peyton Nash. Mitchell's Cadwell Park will also host the Class A state Legion tourney next year, meaning Post 18 will receive an automatic bid as the tourney host.

"I am really excited for next year hosting the state tournament and being able to allow a lot of the fans that don't get to travel to these games and to be able to see us on a stage that we've played on the last two years," Norden said.

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