May 22—MITCHELL — After beating Sioux Falls Jefferson, 5-3, on Saturday afternoon at Cadwell Park, the Mitchell baseball team needed one more win later in the evening to reach the Class A state tournament. A matchup between Mitchell and the No. 5-seeded Harrisburg Tigers was set and the Kernels would not be denied.
Mitchell (17-7) used a three-run inning in the fourth and an additional two runs in the sixth to beat Harrisburg, 6-2, and advance to the Class A state tournament for the first time since 2019.
"We had a couple of errors where they were able to get some guys on, but we did a great job of damage control again like we have all season," said Mitchell coach Luke Norden. "The camaraderie and unselfishness we have with this team where no one has to do too much has been the biggest thing that's made us successful this year. It was huge for our team to get this done."
In a doubleheader on May 7, Mitchell lost both games against Harrisburg (15-11), giving up a pair of seventh-inning leads. In the third game between the two this season, Mitchell would again carry a lead into the late stages but this time wouldn't relinquish it.
After a scoreless first inning, Mitchell scored its first run of the game in the second after capitalizing on two mistakes by the Tigers. Mason Geraets was hit by a pitch and after Brock Sparks hit a ground ball to Harrisburg's third baseman, the Tigers committed a throwing error on the throw to first base and another on a throw to third that allowed Geraets to make his way home.
In the fourth inning, Geraets and Carson Fahey were walked, putting two batters on with only one out. Seth Muth managed to successfully load the bases with a bunt single, and after Dylan Soulek was walked at the plate, Mitchell was in prime position to extend its 2-0 lead. Jonah Schmidt had a fly out to left field but on a Harrisburg error at home plate, the Kernels scored two more runs before the end of the inning.
At the top of the sixth, Harrisburg tried to put together a run of its own after two infield errors by Mitchell allowed the Tigers to score two runs with only one out. Harrisburg had just come back from a 3-0 deficit earlier in the day against Sturgis and with the two come from behind wins over the Kernels on May 7, Mitchell made a pitching change while still in the lead. Soulek stepped in for Helleloid and delivered two crucial strikeouts on six total pitches. Norden said Soulek's poise at the mound was essential to help Mitchell get out of that inning, but Soulek didn't take much, if any, of the credit and said anyone on the team could have made that happen.
"It was still in our minds that last time we played Harrisburg," Soulek said. "... So we all had a chip on a shoulder coming into this game, and I think anyone he would have called up to the mound would have got the job done because we were all laser focused today."
Later that inning, Schmidt had his lone hit of the game that ended up bringing two runners home and sealing the 6-2 victory for the Kernels. Schmidt led the team with RBIs, and both Muth and Fahey scored two runs each.
Helleloid picked up the win as he pitched 5 1/3 innings, allowing three hits and two runs, but struck out 10 batters. Soulek struck out four and allowed one hit in 1 2/3 innings pitched.
For Harrisburg, Jack Sutton took the loss, striking out six but allowed two hits and four runs in five innings pitched.
Mitchell now advances to the Class A state tournament on May 28 in Sioux Falls, where the Kernels will meet up with top-seeded Sioux Falls Roosevelt. The Rough Riders edged Yankton, 2-1, to reach the last four teams remaining. No. 6 Sioux Falls Washington and No. 7 Sioux Falls Lincoln will meet up on the other side of the championship bracket.
As for Mitchell and their preparation for the state tournament, Norden said the team will continue to do what they've been doing all season in anticipation for their biggest game of the season.
"We'll continue what we're doing as far as the game plan with base running, and hitting-wise we'll keep our routine with the pitching machine because our guys have taken it serious all year," Norden said. "They want the ball to come faster and faster and they're just really aggressive with their approach as if they're in an actual game. This team wants to accomplish more and it's great to coach this group of guys."