A splendid start: No-hitter from Rylee Jennings highlights Kernels' inaugural softball victory
After years of anticipation, the Mitchell High School softball team was ready to play on Tuesday afternoon.
MITCHELL — After years of anticipation, the Mitchell High School softball team was ready to play on Tuesday afternoon.
Tuesday, April 11 was opening day for the inaugural school-sanctioned softball team, the first such team in Kernel history. And then the Kernels came out and blistered visiting Aberdeen Central 11-0 in a five-inning game shortened by the 10-run rule.
“We’ve been excited to get out and play for a while, and it was great to play like we did and get the first win like this,” Kernel junior Delaney Degen said.
On the field, eighth-grade pitcher Rylee Jennings made sure the Kernels finished on top. She recorded 13 of the 15 Aberdeen outs via strikeouts and pitched the first no-hitter in program history. All told, Jennings faced 18 batters, threw 55 of her 91 pitches for strikes and yielded only three walks.
“My pitches were just working,” Jennings said. “It was a great feeling.”
Jennings said she was able to mix her fastball and riseball throughout the game and was able to build confidence through the course of her outing.
“I think this is a team that has some really good players and we’re excited to show what we can do,” she said. “This was a good start for us.”
On a day that felt like Mother Nature might have been making up for lost time after a snowy winter — sunny with temperatures peaking at 90 degrees and winds gusting to 43 mph — hundreds gathered to see high school softball at Field F at the Cadwell Sports Complex, packing the bleachers behind the backstop and sitting in lawnchairs down the foul lines. The starting lineups were introduced and the teams gathered on the baselines for the national anthem, lifting the lid on a new era in Kernel high school sports.
“I’m just super proud of our girls,” Mitchell head coach Kent Van Overschelde said. “It was an emotional day for all of the work that has been put in to get to this point. I’m super pleased that we had a big crowd here but that’s how Kernel sports are, where we have people that get behind what we’re doing and support it. And we’re proud to put together a team that I think people are going to be excited to see.”
Degen drove the offense for Mitchell, finishing 3-for-3 with three runs scored and three RBIs. She had the Kernels’ first hit and run scored in Kernel history in the first inning.
“Just a lot of firsts today. It’s very cool that we’re getting the chance to make some history,” Degen said.
MHS had two runs in the first inning and scored three times in the second before blowing the game open in the third, scoring six times. Paige Vander Heiden drove in a pair of runs and scored twice for the Kernels, while Jennings, Vander Heiden and Mallory Miedema each had one of Mitchell’s six hits, and Jennings and Lauren Van Overschelde driving in runs, as well.
Coach Van Overschelde noted that after three weeks in the gym, baserunning was the one thing that they were able to practice indoors and it paid off in an aggressive approach.
“Our team and assistant coaches deserve the credit for being prepared and ready to play,” he said. “We practiced for three weeks in the gym and then we got outside (on Monday) and it was a whole different thing. We had to correct some things but I was just super happy with how we came out and played very well."
Aberdeen Central had freshman Kaylee Kiesow inside the pitching circle on Tuesday. Kiesow was the losing pitcher of record, allowing six hits, 11 runs (six earned), walking six and striking out seven. On offense, the Golden Eagles never got a runner past second base, and Jennings struck out seven batters in a row from the second to fourth innings.
“Rylee gave us a great start,” coach Van Overschelde said. “We hope to have some depth with the pitching but she was ready to go today.”
After the first three games of the season were postponed due to weather, Mitchell now has four consecutive home games to open the schedule. The Kernels will now host Watertown at 6 p.m. Thursday due to the Arrows’ field conditions, plus back-to-back home dates with Harrisburg and Sioux Falls Lincoln on April 17 and 18 in Mitchell.