Fresh faces, similar expectations for Mitchell High School baseball entering 2023 spring season

Coming off success-filled spring high school and summer Legion seasons in 2022 powered by a large senior class, Mitchell baseball will look to several new contributors this spring.

Mitchell's Dylan Soulek fields a ground ball during the Class A high school baseball championship game against Sioux Falls Lincoln on Saturday, May 28, 2022, at Sioux Falls Stadium.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

MITCHELL — It’s a reload, not a rebuild for the Mitchell High School baseball program leading into the 2023 spring season.

Last spring, the Kernels finished as Class A state runners-up and followed it with another top-four finish during the summer American Legion season. With a large senior class that regularly accounted for eight of the nine starting positions graduating since then, it has opened up ample opportunities in the lineup for the seven returners from last season and a wave of newcomers.

“In high school baseball, we're dealt the cards and know we can't change them,” Norden said. “It’s nice to see a new hand.

“These guys are really excited about baseball. We have two smaller junior and senior classes and a large influx of sophomores to start getting experience early that they can build on,” he continued. “I'm really excited with the guys we have here.”

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Between the spring high school and summer Legion seasons, Mitchell was one of the most impressive teams in South Dakota, finishing with a pair of top-four placements in the respective state tournaments.

Chief among those returning is senior Dylan Soulek, a mainstay at shortstop last year who was named all-state during both the spring and summer. Last spring, Soulek batted .412 and had an on-base percentage of .505. He tied for the team lead in hits (35), was second in runs scored (30) and fourth in RBIs (18) and stolen bases (seven).


“We're going to need (Soulek) to drive more runs in for us this year,” Norden said. “In order for him to do that, he's going to have to have a couple of guys behind him that are doing a really good job of knocking the ball around, too.”

Among the other returners from last year’s team include Peyton Schroder, Hudson Haley, Peyton Mandel, Gavin Soukup, Karter Sibson and Lincoln Bates.

Last season, from the beginning of the spring season to the end of the summer, there was a minimal shuffling of the lineup or batting order. However, Norden said that might not be the case this year, as he emphasizes finding combinations that “protect” some of the Kernels’ best hitters.

“Some of those guys that were in the lineup last year are going to be in a new spot,” Norden said. “We've got to have guys that are very capable of doing multiple things, and I think we have some guys that are going to fit the mold throughout the lineup.”

Alongside Soulek, Sibson was effective in his opportunities last spring, posting a .389 batting average across 28 plate appearances. Mandel was .364 in 12 plate appearances, and Bates and Schroder each checked in at .333, though the pair combined for just 11 plate appearances.

Mitchell's Peyton Mandel winds up prior to throwing a pitch during a Mitchell High School varsity baseball against Sioux Falls Jefferson on April 26, 2022, at Cadwell Park.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

On the mound, Norden stressed the importance of having a dugout full of players who can go out and feel confident pounding the strike zone with pitches. While many of his top arms from last season departed, Soulek and Schroder tossed 19 2/3 and 19 innings, respectively, last spring, while Mandel recorded 8 2/3, with a minimum of six appearances between the three of them.

“Our biggest thing is going to be having these younger kids get on the mound and throw strikes,” Norden said. “We're going to be just as good as anybody if we get some younger guys that want to jump up on the mound, get the ball in play and have our defense play (because) we've got a handful of those guys that took a lot of pride in making plays and doing really well (defensively).

“That’s what, I think, is going to set us apart from being pretty good to really good,” he added.


Even with a high-scoring offense and rotation of powerful arms, perhaps Mitchell’s biggest strength last season was its fielding. Norden doesn’t recall a better team in that category during his time with the program, as the Kernels finished with a spring fielding percentage of .951.

Norden is optimistic that the 2023 squad can emulate the characteristics that allowed past teams to succeed because the program has the framework and leaders to facilitate the transition with a largely new crew of Kernels.

“Goals are good, but I think you have to do a little before developing some goals. I’m more into missions,” Norden explained. “I'm focused on our team having the mission to carry on the tradition of Mitchell baseball — doing things the right way, outworking everybody and treating the game with respect. Our leaders and older guys understand the mission, and they're really good about passing that on.”

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 and found on Twitter at @LDierksy.
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