Mitchell baseball tasked with Rapid City Stevens rematch in opening round of regional tournament
“I hope our guys, position for position, are just a little bit better than whoever we're facing,” coach Luke Norden said. “I think this format is pretty good if we've got that mindset.”
MITCHELL — Mitchell High School baseball knows what lies ahead.
After hosting Rapid City Stevens for a doubleheader that the two squads split on Saturday, May 13, No. 6-seeded Mitchell will square off with the 11th-seeded Raiders again one week later in Harrisburg in the first round of the high school baseball regional tournament, with the first pitch scheduled for 2:30 p.m.
In the first of the pair of bouts with Stevens, Mitchell faced left-hander Brady Bickett, who tossed a complete-game, four-hit shutout with 15 strikeouts in a 1-0 win. But the thought of facing him again isn’t one coach Luke Norden shies away from.
“It would be fantastic if he threw again. That’s the way I look at it,” Norden said. “We want to see everybody's best guy at all costs. Anytime we play, we want to see the best arms that we can because it’s going to make us that much better. So just having the confidence to go out and say, ‘He got the best of me last time. It's not going to happen again.’”
Norden added, though, that Mitchell is worrying more about itself as opposed to who Stevens decides to put on the mound come Saturday, noting that getting too amped up to face a certain pitcher could be a hindrance if someone else toes for rubber for the Raiders.
On the mound for Mitchell, both Gavin Soukup and Peyton Schroder had quality starts against Stevens, with Soukup throwing seven innings of one-run ball, while Schroder went five innings and gave up two runs.
And while turning back to one of them may seem — on the surface — like the logical move given the previous success, Norden hasn’t ruled out the possibility of Dylan Soulek getting the start for the Kernels. Soulek didn’t pitch against Stevens this season, though Norden said he hasn’t yet made a decision on who he’ll give the ball to.
“I'm kind of looking at, would it be wise for us to maybe throw Dylan in the first game because he didn't throw at all against them?” Norden said. “They're maybe going to expect, ‘Well, they threw their best two guys against us. We'll see them again.’ And then you put somebody else out on the mound there.”
Should the Kernels beat Stevens on Saturday, they’d play right away at 5 p.m. against the winner of No. 3 Harrisburg versus No. 14 Huron — the noon contest Saturday. Mitchell split a doubleheader with Huron earlier this season on the road but was swept in Harrisburg, including Mitchell’s only run-rule loss of the season.
But Norden said the run-rule loss was more of a product of dwelling on the previous game, where Harrisburg took the lead in the bottom of the sixth to beat Mitchell 4-2.
“Our focus is going to be more on that first game and how well we played and executed pitching wise as a kind of a barometer for where we should be against those guys if we do happen to play,” Norden said of the host Tigers.
The Kernels have won two straight games and three of their last four heading into the regional tournament, closing out the regular season at 10-10, and Norden said in the finale against O’Gorman, there were plenty of positives to draw from.
He pointed to the fundamentals, like a hit-and-run that Peyton Mandel and Carter Miller executed, which he said was the best hit-and-run of the year. But continuing to get leadoff runners on base and bringing them around to score by executing hit-and-runs and dropping down bunts will be imperative in a single-elimination format.
While there have been a few blowouts along the way, Mitchell has also had its share of close games this season, giving it a chance to work on fundamentals like hit-and-runs and bunts during in-game pressure situations.
“I hope our guys, position for position, are just a little bit better than whoever we're facing,” Norden said. “I think this format is pretty good if we've got that mindset and we have that ability to play up to what we potentially can do.”