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Returning to the lineup, Joe Van Overschelde's on-field presence is a welcome addition for Mitchell Post 18

Knee surgery in late March kept the Mitchell senior sidelined for more than three months, but now Van Overschelde is back in the lineup and helping his team push for a state title.

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Mitchell Post 18 first baseman Joe Van Overschelde tosses the ball to pitcher Landon Waddell (7) at first base for an out during a Class A American Legion state tournament winner's bracket semifinal against Rapid City Post 22 on Thursday, July 28, 2022, at Fitzgerald Stadium in Rapid City.
Landon Dierks / Mitchell Republic
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RAPID CITY — As far as Joe Van Overschelde was concerned, his return to the baseball diamond was a matter of when, not if.

After a knee injury required surgery in late March, Van Overschelde was forced to take in the first three-plus months of his senior baseball season from the dugout while going through rehab. But according to the future Dakota Wesleyan linebacker, little to no consideration was given to foregoing whatever portion of the season — big or small — he would be available for; he wanted to be back on the field with his Post 18 teammates, period.

So, over the past three weeks, Van Overschelde has appeared on the lineup card with increasing regularity, albeit in a different position than he spent the vast majority of the prior three seasons.

“Right after surgery it was, ‘How long do I have to wait to baseball?’” Van Overschelde said. “It’s always been the goal to get back out there. Obviously, I have to get ready for football, too, but this was pretty important to me to get back out here with these guys.”

“It’s been great having the teammates that get you through an injury and then to go out and play,” Van Overschelde continued. “I definitely tried to keep the same energy in the dugout as if I was playing, but it’s just been awesome and a little surreal to be playing with the guys again.”

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To say Van Overschelde is back is a bit of a half-truth. In reality, he never left.

“We haven’t just got him back. He’s been one of the best teammates for everybody all year and he’s been working his tail off like he’s been in the lineup the whole time,” said Mitchell coach Luke Norden with a grin. “He’s been here the whole year. The only difference is he’s getting to play a little bit now.”

Van Overschelde has been on the Post 18 roster since he was a freshman, though he jokes he’s been with the team since he was three months old as his father, Kent, is a longtime assistant coach. For much of that time, Van Overschelde could be found crouched behind home plate in his catcher’s gear. But with the time dwindling in his prep career, Van Overschelde took on an additional challenge in conjunction with working back from injury — learning a foreign position.

Sliding 90 feet down the first base line “has, for sure, been different,” according to Van Overschelde, but he’s had the support of his teammates throughout the process. At the forefront is Mason Geraets, a fellow senior and Mitchell’s primary first baseman through both the spring and summer, who has been giving Van Overschelde crash courses on how to play the position.

“He was always hoping to get back and play, but catching was maybe out of the picture,” Norden said. “But just trying to get him in the field was big for him just because of the time he’s put in.”

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Mitchell Post 18 first baseman Joe Van Overschelde fouls off a pitch during a Class A American Legion state tournament winner's bracket semifinal against Rapid City Post 22 on Thursday, July 28, 2022, at Fitzgerald Stadium in Rapid City.
Landon Dierks / Mitchell Republic

In eight games since his first appearance of the season on July 8, Van Overschelde has recorded a fielding percentage of .975 with 36 putouts to just one error. At the plate, he has a modest average of .273, notching six hits — all singles — in 22 at-bats, but being hit by pitch twice and drawing three walks has helped elevate his on-base percentage to .407.

But even if the familiar face is in a new place, its a welcome sight for Post 18. As Landon Waddell, a teammate in football and baseball, puts it, Van Overschelde “brings something a lot of people can’t.”

“He keeps the energy up at all times, it doesn’t matter what point in the game it is — football or baseball,” Waddell explained. “Even just the high-five after every out means a lot and keeps you energized and fired up. Joe’s definitely the fire under our butts when we’re out there.”

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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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