Kernel baseball looks to make late push in high school season

As Mitchell prepares for the impending postseason, here are a few storylines to keep an eye on.

Mitchell's Karter Sibson makes contact with a pitch during a high school baseball game against Sioux Falls Roosevelt on Monday, May 8, 2023, at Cadwell Park.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

MITCHELL — Almost as quickly as it began, the Mitchell High School baseball season is winding down.

With the regional tournament roughly a week and a half away, Mitchell sits at 7-9 with six games over the final seven days of the regular-season campaign.

As Mitchell prepares for the impending postseason, here are a few storylines to keep an eye on.

Pitching options available

On the mound, Mitchell will have a decision or two to make during the postseason.

Six different pitchers have started at least one game for Mitchell thus far this season, with Peyton Schroder and Gavin Soukup each toeing the rubber for a team-high four starts.


With the regional format for high school playoffs set up as a single-elimination, one-day event where a team needs to win two games that day to advance to state, only two pitchers can start. And sure, coach Luke Norden could just give Soukup and Schroder the ball for both potential regional tournament games, but Dylan Soulek is another candidate to start on the hill too.

In his last start, Soulek didn’t surrender a hit until the sixth inning and boasts the lowest ERA on the team among pitchers with seven or more innings at 2.50.

“It's going to depend on the opponent too and what success maybe we've had against certain opponents with certain pitchers,” Norden said of mapping out a potential rotation. “You kind of try to break it down like, ‘Hey, I'm going to potentially maybe use these two guys for this game and maybe these two guys for this game.’”

Soukup has a 3.28 ERA and Schroder’s is 2.92, and as a team, Mitchell gives up 4.27 earned runs per contest.

Mitchell's Peyton Schroder delivers a pitch during a high school baseball game against Sturgis on Friday, May 5, 2023, at Cadwell Park.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

At the top, the Kernels have strong pitching. And given the week rest they’d have between regionals and the state tournament — should they make it — there’s a chance their best pitchers could throw every inning of postseason play.

Those three seem to be the likely candidates to be on the mound during the possible postseason games for Mitchell, but younger pitchers Parker Mandel and Tyler Sanderson could figure into the pitching roles, as they’ve pitched 10 and 11 innings respectively. Carter Miller, who missed last season following knee surgery, has been solid for the Kernels as well. In three outings this season, Miller has posted a 2.33 ERA, while Sanderson has started three games on the mound for Mitchell and Mandel has 13 strikeouts over 10 innings. Norden said Mandel’s last two outings in which he allowed three earned runs over seven innings were “outstanding.”

“Some of our younger guys have kind of been thrown into some close-game type situations and I've thought their composure has been awesome,” Norden said.

Members Only
“Over 20 years I’ve … very rarely had siblings of different ages be able to play (together),” coach Luke Norden said. “So it's kind of special to be able to do something like that with a sibling.”


Fresh faces providing spark

In addition to the younger players pitching, new faces in the field have been a common theme for Mitchell this season. And largely, those new faces have produced.

Coming into the season, the corners of the infield were two of the areas Norden pointed to as places he wanted to see someone fill an everyday role.

Third base was a position largely handled by veterans Jonah Schmidt and Jake Helleloid last season, and with the graduation of those two, it opened up a spot for someone new. In stepped Peyton Mandel, who Norden noted has filled in nicely manning the hot corner prior to an injury he sustained after being hit in the face by a pitch.

Mandel is hitting .212 on the season with a pair of doubles and is second on the team with 10 runs batted in.

“He was super excited to start playing some third base to help us out there,” Norden said of Mandel. “Moving him there has helped us out a ton.”

Norden also mentioned Soukup and Parker Mandel for the job they’ve done at first base. Coming into the season, Soukup had a bit of prior experience at first base, while Parker Mandel was a new addition to the team.

In the field, Soukup has a .955 fielding percentage, while Mandel’s is at .938, and Soukup is also tied for fourth on the team in hits with nine.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better situation at first base with what we have with Gavin and Parker Mandel,” Norden said. “Both of those guys have been super impressive at first base in all regards.”


Lincoln Bates and Dylan Soulek have the two most consistent contributors at the plate for Mitchell this season, with Bates hitting .341 and Soulek hitting .318 — each of them through 44 at-bats. They're also No. 1 and 2 on the team in hits, as Bates has picked up 15 to Soulek’s 14, and Bates is also first on the team in on-base percentage at .516, while Soulek is second at .466. On top of that, the pair is tied for the team lead in slugging at .568.

Mitchell's Dylan Soulek watches a pitch come in during a high school baseball game against Sturgis on Friday, May 5, 2023, at Cadwell Park.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

Norden has mentioned the team stringing together better at-bats as the season has gone along, and it’s been evident on the scoreboard. Prior to the loss to Roosevelt, Mitchell had been averaging 6.25 runs over a four-game stretch where it posted three wins.

And the offense has been key all season. When the Kernels score five or more runs, they’re 7-2, but when they score five or less, they’re 0-7.

“I think some of these younger guys are doing a really good job of listening and working on things that we’ve talked about,” Norden said. “The No. 1 thing, you’ve got to buy into what’s being told to you and if you work hard at those things, you're going to get rewarded at the plate for working hard and doing those things.”

Much to be determined

Heading into Tuesday night’s game with Sioux Falls Washington at 7-9, Mitchell has six games left over a seven-day stretch.

It’s a daunting stretch, but one Norden said is beneficial and is going to better prepare his squad for the upcoming summer season.

“Playing right now for us is a key component to the end of the season going into the region tournament, just that opportunity to play as much as we can. I think that’s a huge benefit for us,” Norden said. “The other real big benefit for us is that we can maybe put some different guys on the mound to get those guys in different situations. And that may not help us for the region tournaments so much but getting those guys just continue to prepare them for our summer as well.”

The Mitchell dugout celebrates after a hit during a high school baseball game against Sioux Falls Roosevelt on Monday, May 8, 2023, at Cadwell Park.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

As of May 8, the Kernels were sixth in Class A in seed points, but that was before a loss to No. 11 Sioux Falls Roosevelt on Monday. The May 8 updated standings saw seeds 4-through-14 separated by less than two full seed points, so shifting in the standings down the home stretch is all but inevitable.


And while Monday’s 3-0 defeat to the Rough Riders made it all the more difficult to host during regionals on Saturday, May 20 — the top four seeds each claim a host site — there’s still plenty of room for Mitchell to climb or fall in the next week.

“A lot of regionals, depending on where you’re at, it’s going to depend on matchups and who you play,” Norden said. “There's some teams that are littered down at the bottom that have really good pitchers and there's teams at the top that overall, they're pretty good, but they might not have a real dominant guy on the mound.”

Zech Lambert is a sports reporter for the Mitchell Republic. He graduated from Penn State University in May 2022 and began at the Mitchell Republic in July 2022. He can be reached at or on Twitter @Zech_Lambert.
What To Read Next
Get Local