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Youth delivers in Dimock/Emery's lineup for state amateur baseball tournament

A new generation of players is helping the Raptors earn success

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Dimock/Emery's Sam Hofer, right, celebrates a home run on Friday, August 5, 2022 against the Hartford/Humboldt Gamecocks at Cadwell Park.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic
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MITCHELL -- The youth movement in the Dimock/Emery lineup is paying off for the Raptors.

The Raptors are playing in their 15th Class B state amateur baseball tournament in the last 16 seasons, a span that included a state title in 2010 and four semifinal appearances, including in 2021. It comes as Dimock/Emery attempts to artfully transition more playing time to its younger players, many of them from the area or with homegrown ties.

That younger core showed up in a big way for the Raptors in their opening-round 13-0 win over the Hartford/Humboldt Gamecocks, with Sam Arend driving in seven runs and picking up a home run that pitcher Phil Johnson joked “was hit 500 feet” to left field. In all, 12 of the team’s 13 runs were driven in by players in their 20s for the Raptors, including two from Sam Michels, while Peyton Nash had three hits.

Arend, Nash and Michels are the team's three RBI leaders, with 20 from Arend, 19 from Nash and 18 from Michels. Nash is hitting .419 with an on- base percentage of .517, while Michels is hitting .314 with an OBP of .484, entering Dimock/Emery's second-round game with Salem on Tuesday.

Arend, a native of Emery who played in championship games in football and basketball in high school, said the state amateur baseball tournament is different but just as fun as those experiences. His brother, Chase, is also a key member of the Raptors’ roster.

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“You have a full stadium and you’re playing in front of your friends and family, under the lights,” Arend said. “Everyone is here at Cadwell to watch us play and it’s a great feeling. You just want to play well.”

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Dimock/Emery's Drew Kitchens fields a bouncing ball against the Hartford/Humboldt Gamecocks on Friday, August 5, 2022 at Cadwell Park
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

Dimock/Emery’s situation is emblematic of what many amateur teams have to face. Without working in younger players, teams risk dying off or decreasing in quality because new players aren’t ready or available to move in behind the veterans. Dimock/Emery manager Brad Bartscher said the team has added players with either local roots or connections that make a practical fit with the Raptors’ veteran players.

“It’s all you could ever ask for,” D/E manager Brad Bartscher said, adding he has coached many of the players in youth sports growing up, as well. “They’re all hard-working guys and they do everything you ask for on the team. They’re a big reason why we’re here at the state tournament.”

Nash, who plays college baseball at Southwest Minnesota State and is a Mitchell Post 18 alum, said he’s learned a lot from the veteran players on Dimock/Emery’s roster, which includes Johnson, Jason Schmidt, Gene Kitchens and Sam Pischke.

“They have a lot of knowledge and experience and they’re willing to pass that along to you,” Nash said. “They have set a good example of how to succeed in amateur baseball and you just try to follow their lead.

Nash is joined by Sam Michels, the former University of Sioux Falls player and Drew Kitchens, who plays at Dakota Wesleyan.

Johnson said his advice to the young players is to play with confidence. He said he loves the speed they bring to the lineup and on the defensive end of the diamond.

“We all know they can play and now they’re showing it,” Johnson said.

Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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