Mitchell softball takes Year 1 lessons learned into SoDak 16 matchup
The Kernels will hope to reverse their fortunes from May 1, when the Warriors came to Mitchell and won 21-3 in three innings, and Mitchell had six errors in the game.
MITCHELL — There’s been a lot of learning in Year 1 for the Mitchell High School softball team.
A 5-13 record during the regular season might make that obvious. But it’s been a rewarding inaugural campaign full of growth and improvement, coach Kent Van Overschelde said.
“If we have a motto that we’ve adopted, it's that we want to keep our foot on the pedal of improving, getting better every time out,” he said. “We know we’re going to make mistakes along the way and where we’re at with this team, (we’re) building to the future.”
Mitchell will carry the No. 12 seed into the state-qualifying game on Tuesday against fifth-seeded Sioux Falls Washington in a 6 p.m. game in Sioux Falls. The Kernels will hope to reverse their fortunes from May 1, when the Warriors came to Mitchell and won 21-3 in three innings, and the Kernels had six errors in the game.
“The key for us in every game, it’s been pitching and defense,” Van Overschelde said. “For us, we have to be able to get off the field. We can’t give teams more than three outs in an inning. … If you give a good team extra outs, it’s going to snowball. We know we need to get off the field. That’s what we need to do.”
Mitchell freshman Rylee Jennings has thrown about two-thirds of the innings for the season in the pitching circle, along with a pair of no-hitters. She had 50 strikeouts to 42 walks and has a 6.08 earned-run average, with teammates Macey Linke and Mallory Miedema sharing in the pitching duties. As a team, they have 9.36 earned-run average and opponents have hit .364 against them.
“You look at the job that Rylee, Macey and Mallory have done on the mound, it’s a lot more strikeouts than walks and that’s been great,” the coach said. “But the total runs scored, it’s too much. … Overall, we’ve tried to not worry about our opponent and we need to worry about what we do with our opportunities.”
Linke is the team’s leading hitter at .438 and she has a team-best 17 RBIs on the year. Delaney Degen has 19 runs scored to lead the team and hit .341 during the season. Alyssa Magee leads the team in stolen bases with seven. Linke, Degen and Miedema each have hit a pair of home runs to share the team lead.
“When we started, we talked about the postseason and getting to the state tournament but we know we’ve had a process to go through. When I reflect on it, I’m happy because we’ve made mistakes and we’ve grown as individuals and as a team and to see where we’re at as a lineup and progressed, it’s a good feeling.”
Mitchell and Washington will play at Field 7 at the Sanford Sports Complex Diamonds, the newly opened all-artificial turf facility in northwest Sioux Falls. When the two teams meet on Tuesday night, they will both bring rosters that remain young — they combine to have only one senior on the roster, represented by Mitchell’s Magee. The Warriors do not have a single senior on their roster.
The Warriors, who opened the season 7-1 and won five of their final seven games, are likely to throw freshman pitcher Emma Hensley against Mitchell. Hensley has started 13 of Washington’s 17 games this season with a 6-3 record and 83 strikeouts to 32 walks, with an earned-run average of 4.16.
Six hitters are batting .400 or better for Washington, and the team bats .412 collectively, including .521 from Ava Brink and .509 from Hensley. Tierney Schramm, who hits .462, has a team-best 30 RBIs and Isabel Carda leads the team in home runs with five and runs scored with 32, while batting .467.
During the regular season, the Kernels were 5-1 against teams with records below .500, and were 0-12 against teams with records above that mark.
The winner of Tuesday’s game advances to the Class AA state tournament on June 1 in Aberdeen, where either No. 4 Sioux Falls Jefferson (14-4) or No. 13 Rapid City Central (5-13) awaits in the quarterfinal round.
Van Overschelde joked that after two decades of coaching Mitchell High School and American Legion baseball, he hears a lot of baseball coach Luke Norden’s wisdom and sayings in how he’s coaching softball now.
“I want it to be an accumulation of all of my experiences and I never really want to stifle these girls and I want them to get better in practices and games,” Van Overschelde said. “I don’t want to put the remote control on them. I want to give them the chance to improve and play the game. Wherever we end up going forward, we’ve accomplished the goal of building a foundation to the program.”