Mitchell High School softball set to take on inaugural season with 'effort and enthusiasm'
As the Kernels hit the field, they’ll do so with plenty of youth. Of the 23-person roster, seven are juniors or seniors.
MITCHELL — It’s been 18 months since varsity softball was played under the Mitchell Kernels banner, and that wait is soon to be over.
The curtain raises with the start of the spring 2023 softball season, as the sport makes its debut as a sanctioned activity under the purview of the South Dakota High School Activities Association.
Led by head coach Kent Van Overschelde and assistant Kindra Clark, the Mitchell High School softball program is approaching the opportunity to build a new varsity program with great enthusiasm and a hard-working mindset.
“There is definitely a sense of excitement, and our first week of practice was a demonstration of that with the effort and enthusiasm of our team,” Van Overschelde said. “And I think once the games start, our fans and community will be excited about adding another activity to the experience of high school sports.”
With the transition from a club-based system to an SDHSAA activity and the year-and-a-half layoff — the club varsity seasons were played in the fall, with Mitchell's last participation in 2021 — there’s also an added feeling of being afforded a fresh start and building the foundation for a new sports program.
As the Kernels look to tackle this inaugural season, they’ll do so with plenty of youth. Of the 23-person roster, seven are juniors or seniors. As such, Van Overschelde is looking for leadership from up and down the ranks.
Senior Alyssa Magee, who will hold down the catcher spot, is one of those upperclassmen who will be looked to as the Kernels bridge the gap. Van Overschelde identified several underclassmen who have already started to step into vocal leadership roles such as freshmen Kenna Soulek and Emma Hegg as well as sophomore Lauren Van Overschelde.
Sophomore Macey Linke — who will juggle softball with track and field — and freshman Mallory Miedema are also among those Kent Van Overschelde expects to have an impact early on.
“It’s just been exciting. We have girls that bring that experience of competition (in other sports) along with the girls that have been super committed to softball at the club level, and that has developed a real positive mix,” Van Overschelde said of seeing the roster come together. “With the variety of experiences our players have, they’ve been very positive and helping mentor each other. Not everyone can be an MVP, but everyone can be MVLs — most valuable leaders.”
With a younger group, the early focus has been on playing sound fundamental softball. Among the points of emphasis has been running the bases, making the most out of the Kernels’ speed and athleticism once they’re able to reach base safely.
“We've been able to focus on fundamentals at this point and (we are) really trying to build on the ability to run the bases,” Van Overschelde said. “We're going to utilize those strengths and, of course, if you're going to be good at running bases, you better find a way to get on base. I've just seen growth even in our first week of learning from what we've set as an expectation for the program.
“We're combining the spirit of being a Mitchell Kernel and putting on the black and gold with what I think is a natural fit to have softball in the spring,” Van Overschelde added. “I think that there's going to be some super competitive softball played, and that can only help re-energize developing the programs that will secure Mitchell can build a strong tradition of softball.”