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With postseason looming, Kernel baseball nears home playoff bid

With two wins on Tuesday, the Mitchell High School baseball team could clinch a home playoff for the first time since the introduction of seed points to determine postseason play.

4-26-22MitchellvsSFJefferson-5.jpg
Mitchell shortstop Dylan Soulek reaches back in an attempt to tag Sioux Falls Jefferson baserunner Mason Riley (22) during the first game of a doubleheader between the Kernels and Cavaliers on April 26, 2022, at Cadwell Park.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic
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MITCHELL — Among the goals Mitchell High School baseball coach Luke Norden had for his team entering the 2022 spring season, finishing in a position to host a Class A regional at Cadwell Park was near the top of the list, if not on the very first line.

“Since going to power points in the high school season, we’ve had good seasons, but we really haven’t had one really good season where we’re in that top tier of Class A,” Norden told the Mitchell Republic in late March. “I think being able to be in that top-four and be able to host the regional at our home park would be big for this team.”

With a Tuesday doubleheader at Pierre looming as the last hurdle before postseason play, the Kernels are on the cusp of checking off that goal.

At 15-5, Mitchell climbed to third in the May 16 Class A seed point rankings, sandwiched by the only two teams — No. 2 Brandon Valley (11-3) and No. 4 Harrisburg (14-8) — to sweep the Kernels in doubleheaders. The playoff seedings are expected to be finalized on Wednesday.

A pair of wins in the state capital on Tuesday evening would effectively cement Mitchell as a regional host site come Saturday, May 21, and with the Kernels more than a full seed point ahead of No. 6 Sioux Falls Lincoln, there’s minimal chance to fall out of the top five should they go 0-2.

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But sitting just outside of host position, No. 5 Brookings (42.136 seed points) is close enough to make both Mitchell (42.750) and Harrisburg (42.318) uncomfortable with dropping contests in the days ahead of the regional playoffs. Brookings and Harrisburg face off Monday night, which could solidify Mitchell's place further should either team lose both contests.

If the regional playoffs started Monday, No. 3 Mitchell would host No. 14 O’Gorman (5-13) along with No. 6 Lincoln (9-7) and No. 11 Huron (6-9). The Kernels already defeated O’Gorman (3-2 on May 3) and Huron (14-4 on April 12), but had an April 5 contest with Lincoln wiped out due to weather. In the spring high school season playoff format, winners of Mitchell-O’Gorman and Lincoln-Huron would play each other in a single game to determine the state championship tournament qualifier.

As evidenced by their record, the Kernels haven’t exhibited any major weakness during the spring season. On offense, Mitchell owns a team batting average of .355 and a .482 on-base percentage. Four regular starters — Jace Larson, Jonah Schmidt, Brock Sparks and Dylan Soulek — all have batting averages and on-base percentages above .415 and .510, respectively.

On the mound, five Kernels — Jake Helleloid, Peyton Schroder, Landon Waddell, Schmidt and Soulek — have tossed at least 15 innings, with four of them averaging at least one strikeout per inning pitched and a different four-man grouping picking up multiple wins. Behind the rock-solid pitching, Mitchell’s defense has committed 24 errors in 20 games, though that total is just four errors across nine contests since the calendar turned to May.

“We just continue to get better, and that’s the most important thing,” Norden said after Mitchell’s home sweep of Yankton on May 13. “You look at two weeks or a month down the road, and we’re going to be even better then than we are now. I think that drive for guys to want to be better is going to help us here when the playoffs start.”

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Mitchell High School baseball coach Luke Norden (standing, left) speaks to his team following the Kernels' win in the first game of a doubleheader against Sioux Falls Jefferson on April 26, 2022, at Cadwell Park.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

Included below are the full Class A seed points standings from May 16, with teams followed by their seed points and records.
1. Sioux Falls Roosevelt, 45.938, 15-1
2. Brandon Valley, 44.857, 11-3
3. Mitchell, 42.750, 15-5
4. Harrisburg, 42.318, 14-8
5. Brookings, 42.136, 15-7
6. Sioux Falls Lincoln, 41.625, 9-7
7. Sioux Falls Washington, 41.333, 9-9
8. Yankton, 41.300, 11-9
9. Pierre, 40.750, 12-12
10. Rapid City Stevens, 39.652, 9-14
11. Huron, 39.200, 6-9
12. Sturgis, 39.050, 11-9
13. Sioux Falls Jefferson, 38.727, 6-16
14. O'Gorman, 38.722, 5-13
15. Rapid City Central, 36.810, 4-17
16. Douglas, 33.462, 0-13

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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