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Mitchell Legion edged by Sioux Falls East, knocked to Saturday elimination game at Class A tourney

Third-seeded Post 18 falls, setting up a meeting with Harrisburg in a win-or-go-home contest on Saturday afternoon.

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Mitchell Post 18 left fielder Brock Sparks reaches to grab a fly ball for an out as Sioux Falls Post 15 East baserunner Ethan Bruns watches from the infield during a Class A American Legion state tournament winner's bracket contest on Friday, July 29, 2022, at Fitzgerald Stadium in Rapid City.
Landon Dierks / Mitchell Republic
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RAPID CITY — In a battle between the last two unbeaten teams left in the Class A Legion baseball tournament, a furious seventh-inning rally fell just short for Mitchell Post 18, as Sioux Falls Post 15 East held on for an 8-7 win on Friday night at Fitzgerald Stadium.

Mitchell and Sioux Falls East traded runs and the lead throughout the night, but Post 15 carried an 8-4 advantage into the final half inning. There, Mitchell pulled back to within one run with the winning run on base, but couldn't quite overcome the deficit.

"We did a really good job of getting out of innings early," said Mitchell coach Luke Norden. "[Starting pitcher] Jace Larson did a good job of damage control to keep us in the game the entire time. We never thought we were out of the game. ... We just ran out of outs."

Sioux Falls East opened the scoring in the top of the second inning, as an Ethan Bruns double drove in a run from second base. Post 15 tacked on another run in the third, this time on a Myles Rees sacrifice fly.

Later in the third, Mitchell recorded its first hit of the game, and it was an important one. After Brock Sparks was hit by a pitch to leadoff the inning and Dylan Soulek drew a walk, Jonah Schmidt blasted a three-run home run over the left-field fence to put Post 18 ahead 3-2.

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But Sioux Falls East responded almost immediately to reclaim the lead at 4-3, as a Jack Smith sacrifice fly and a Cael Swanson double each pushed one run across.

In the fifth, Soulek flicked a ball over his shortstop counterpart and into left field, which scored Brock Sparks to level the score at 4-4.

Sioux Falls East started the sixth inning by loading the bases before an out was recorded. Shortly thereafter, Rees’ second sacrifice fly inched Sioux Falls East back in front before a two-RBI single off the bat of Bruns made it 7-4. Again in the seventh, Sioux Falls East loaded the bases with no outs, resulting in another Smith sacrifice fly.

Three of the first four Mitchell batters in the bottom of the seventh inning reached base, bringing the potential tying run, represented by Schmidt, to the plate. Schmidt singled to bring a pair of runs home and cut the advantage in half. Again with the bases loaded, Hudson Haley drew a walk, which shrunk the advantage to a single run with two outs, but a flyout on the next batter ended the contest.

With two hits apiece, Soulek and Schmidt accounted for four of Mitchell's five hits, as Schmidt's five-RBI night led the way. Sparks recorded the other Post 18 hit and scored three runs. Jace Larson was credited with the loss on the mound after striking out four in five innings but yielding eight hits and three walks.

For Post 15, Swanson, Bruns and Mason Tolrud each had multiple hits, with Bruns adding a team-high three RBIs. On the mound, Lincoln Vasgaard, who pitched a complete game in Sioux Falls Lincoln's high school state title game win over Mitchell in late May, earned the win with four strikeouts, four walks and three hits allowed across five innings.

Mitchell (27-14) will play seventh-seeded Harrisburg, which stayed alive in the elimination bracket with an 8-0 win over top-seeded Brookings on Friday afternoon, at 5:30 p.m. Central on Saturday. It is an elimination game for both teams.

"You think about how we didn't give up and how good our at-bats were at the end of the game, and we need to carry that into [Saturday]," Schmidt said. "... [Harrisburg] is a good group of guys, too, and it's going to be a good game, but if we come out and play our game we'll be perfectly fine."

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Sioux Falls East (35-13) will take on Rapid City Post 22 at 8 p.m. Central in an elimination game for the Hardhats, while East can assure themselves two chances on Sunday with a win Saturday night.

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Mitchell Post 18 third baseman Jonah Schmidt celebrates with his teammates, including Dylan Soulek (22) and Brock Sparks (5) after hitting a three-run home run during the third inning of a Class A American Legion state tournament winner's bracket contest against Sioux Falls Post 15 East on Friday, July 29, 2022, at Fitzgerald Stadium in Rapid City.
Landon Dierks / Mitchell Republic

Dierks covers prep and collegiate athletics across the Mitchell Republic's coverage region area, focusing on Mitchell High School football and boys basketball and area high school football, volleyball and basketball, as well as Dakota Wesleyan women's basketball. He was also the lead on the Mitchell Republic Gridiron Spotlight, producing video and providing live play-by-play for the traveling weekly prep football broadcast during its first season in the fall of 2021. Dierks is a Mitchell native who graduated from South Dakota State University with his bachelor's degree in journalism in May 2020. He joined the Mitchell Republic sports staff in August 2021. He can be reached at ldierks@mitchellrepublic.com and found on Twitter at @LDierksy.
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