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Pitching depth key for Mitchell Post 18 heading into Legion state baseball tournament

Mitchell Post 18 will need to lean on a deep pitching staff going into the American Legion state baseball tournament in Rapid City.

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Jake Helleloid throws a pitch against Aberdeen Post 24 on Friday, July 22, 2022 at Cadwell Park.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic
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MITCHELL — The home stretch of the baseball season starts Wednesday for Mitchell Post 18.

After a successful regular season and a two-game sweep of Aberdeen Post 24 in the qualifying round, Mitchell turns its sights toward the Class A American Legion state baseball tournament in Rapid City.

Third-seeded Post 18 kicks things off in the eight-team, double-elimination tournament against the No. 6 seed, Rapid City Post 320, on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. Central time. The Stars come into the state tournament at 33-16 and are fresh off a sweep of Sioux Falls West in their qualifying series.

Should it want to make a championship run, Mitchell will need to rely on its depth, especially in the pitching department. Post 18 could play as many as six games in five days, but Mitchell has enough arms to do just that. Six pitchers threw more than 20 innings for Post 18 this season, led by workhorse Jake Helleloid, who tossed 51.2 innings to the tune of a 1.90 ERA with 72 strikeouts over nine starts.

Landon Waddell and Dylan Soulek have also been solid for Post 18 all season, with ERAs under 3.00, while Peyton Schroder, Jace Larson and Peyton Mandel all kept their ERAs under 4.00.

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Having an ace at the front of the rotation is always crucial for tournaments, too, and Helleloid has been nothing short of an ace this season. After being a finalist for Class A high school player of the year during the spring, he’s followed it up with a stellar summer where opponents are hitting just .211 against him.

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Soulek, a standout on the basketball court and baseball diamond, is set to join former MHS and Post 18 teammates Jonah Schmidt and Jake Helleloid in the Wolves' baseball program.

In the first postseason contest against Aberdeen, Helleloid spun a gem, picking up the win after throwing a complete game with eight strikeouts and only allowing one earned run on five hits. Waddell, Mandel and Soulek combined to allow just two runs and two hits in the Game 2.

Helleloid even threw a six-inning no-hitter with 12 strikeouts earlier this season on June 4 against tournament host and second-seeded Rapid City Post 22. Post 18 will need that same dominant Helleloid, along with good contributions from the rest of the rotation if it wants to be crowned state champions.

With only eight teams left standing in Class A, the tournament field is solid, but the two teams that gave Mitchell fits this season — Brookings and Brandon Valley — are on the other side of the bracket. The earliest Mitchell could see either team would be three games in.

Mitchell is 3-6 against the entire field, but 0-4 against Brookings and Brandon Valley combined, with its most recent losses coming to Brookings on July 14 when the Bandits swept a doubleheader.

The only two teams Mitchell hasn’t seen yet are Harrisburg and its first-round opponent, Rapid City Post 320. With a win, Mitchell would face the winner of Harrisburg and Rapid City Post 22 at 7 p.m. Thursday, but should Mitchell lose, it would face the loser of that contest in an elimination game Thursday at 12:30 p.m.

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 zlambert@mitchellrepublic.com or on Twitter @Zech_Lambert.
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