Mitchell Post 18 clinches state tournament berth in sweep of Aberdeen Post 24
Post 18 squeaked out a 4-2 win in Game 1 on Friday before dominating Game 2, 10-2, on Saturday.
MITCHELL — Make it two trips to state for Mitchell baseball in 2022.
Having reached the state title game in the spring high school season, Mitchell Post 18 will follow it up looking for more with a trip to the Class A American Legion tournament starting July 27 in Rapid City.
After earning a win in unorthodox fashion in Game 1 of its best-of-three play-in series, Mitchell Post 18 left no doubt in Game 2, cruising to a 10-2 victory over Aberdeen Post 24 to claim the series two games to none on Saturday at Cadwell Park.
It took 5 1/2 innings before anyone broke through in Game 1, but Game 2 started quickly for both teams.
Batting in the top half of each inning on Saturday as a pseudo away team, Post 18 only needed until the third batter of the game to score its first run. Jonah Schmidt singled to center field, driving in Dylan Soulek from second base. Shortly after, with the Aberdeen pitcher struggling to find the strike zone, Schmidt scored on a wild pitch to make it 2-0.
It didn’t stay that way for long. Aided by four walks — two of which occurred with the bases loaded — Aberdeen tied the game in the bottom half of the first. Those would be the lone scoring plays of the afternoon for the Post 24 Smittys.
The first five Mitchell batters in the second inning each recorded a hit, including RBI singles by Brock Sparks and Carson Fahey. Moments later as part of the same streak of hits, a perfectly executed bunt by Seth Muth and a subsequent throwing error by Aberdeen allowed both Sparks and Fahey to score. Muth ended up at third on the play, from where he’d score on an RBI groundout by Soulek to push the score to 7-2.
Mitchell tacked on one run in the third inning and another in the fourth, with Fahey and Jace Larson singles plating the respective runs. Mitchell’s final run of the day came on Fahey’s third RBI of the day — a seventh-inning sacrifice fly.
“I was really happy with the guys because they went back to focusing on our team and were really energetic,” said Post 18 coach Luke Norden. “After not many hits (Friday), they were ready to go out and hit. Scoring in five out of seven innings and continuing to put pressure on was big for us because that’s what we’re going to have to do next week.”
After a shaky start on the mound, Landon Waddell settled down to earn the win. A leadoff hit in the first inning was the only hit allowed by Waddell, though he walked eight and struck out three in four innings. Peyton Mandel and Dylan Soulek combined for three scoreless innings in relief, with Soulek striking out two of three batters in the seventh inning.
One hit on Friday night turned into 13 for the Post 18 offense in Game 2, as every player with multiple at-bats recorded at least one base knock. Muth, Larson, Joe Van Overshelde and Fahey each had two hits, while Schmidt and Sparks each scored a pair of runs.
Aberdeen (22-23 overall, 9-18 against South Dakota competition) out-hit Mitchell five to one on Friday, but was limited to just two hits on Saturday — one each by Drew Salfrank and Andrew Richardson.
Mitchell Post 18 (25-13 overall, 17-6 SD) now advances to the eight-team Class A tournament field, where it will be the No. 3 seed and face off with Rapid City Post 320 in the winner’s bracket quarterfinals.
Two-game sweeps occurred in each of the other best-of-three play-ins split between Friday and Saturday, as well, with Brookings, Brandon Valley, Sioux Falls East, Rapid City Post 320, Harrisburg and Pierre also securing their places in Rapid City.
“We’ve got to plan to be there a while,” Norden said of Post 18's prospects for the tournament. “If we’re really into this thing and thinking we can do something, the Central Plains Regional is out there (in Rapid City), too. You’ve got to have that mentality that we’re going on a trip and plan to stay as long as we can.”
Class A American Legion playoff results
No. 1 Brookings def. No. 15 Sturgis, 9-5, 8-5
No. 2 Rapid City Post 22 (host) received a bye
No. 3 Mitchell def. No. 14 Aberdeen, 4-2, 10-2
No. 4 Brandon Valley def. No. 13 Spearfish, 7-2, 7-0
No. 5 Sioux Falls East def. No. 12 Watertown, 11-1, 5-0
No. 6 Rapid City Post 320 def. No. 11 Sioux Falls West, 12-2, 11-5
No. 7 Harrisburg def. No. 10 Yankton, 2-0, 7-6
No. 9 Pierre def. No. 8 Renner, 6-4, 9-5
Post 18 swipes Game 1 from Aberdeen
MITCHELL — Friday night was far from convincing, but the result wass a 1-0 series lead all the same for Mitchell Post 18.
After 5 1/2 scoreless innings, Mitchell and Aberdeen Post 24 scored six total runs between the bottom of the fifth and both halves of the sixth inning. When the dust settled, Post 18 emerged as 4-2 winners to pull within a single game of the Class A American Legion state tournament.
In perhaps the most bizarre final scoreline of the season, Mitchell scored four runs and totaled 12 baserunners for the game, but managed just one hit — a Mason Geraets single with two outs in the second inning. That’s right, neither of the innings in which Mitchell scored involved a hit.
Post 18 scored its first run in the home half of the fifth, as Brock Sparks and Carson Fahey walked before Sparks was driven home from second base on a batted ball by Dylan Soulek that slipped past the shortstop for an error.
Aberdeen responded almost immediately to take the lead, as RBI singles by Casey Vining and Nick Clemens — whose error had allowed the Mitchell run to score — put Aberdeen ahead 2-1.
But Mitchell pulled back and secured the win with a truly unusual method of response. After Jake Helleloid was hit by a pitch and Jace Larson walked, a ground ball advanced the pair to third and second base, respectively, with one out in the bottom of the sixth. The next at-bat featured a failed bunt attempt as part of a suicide squeeze, but a combination of heady baserunning and a defensive lapse allowed Helleloid to dive in under a tag at home to tie the game and Larson to reach third safely.
Moments later, Landon Waddell plated Larson, the go-ahead run, on a sacrifice fly. Errors on consecutive plays followed, which allowed Brock Sparks to reach base and come all the way home to score to make it 4-2.
With an advantage secured, Helleloid closed out a complete game performance with a lineout followed by two strikeouts — one swinging and one looking, his seventh and eighth of the evening — to retire the side in order to end the contest.
Game 2 of the best-of-three series is set for noon Saturday, with Game 3 to follow, if necessary.