May 22—SIOUX FALLS — Luke Norden could have blown a gasket.
It was pointless. The umpires made the call and the season was over. Any tirades by the Mitchell High School head coach would have been irrelevant.
Seth Muth slid underneath a bloop to shallow left field by O’Gorman’s Leo Hueners, but the ball squirted free. A run scored, but the bases were loaded with two outs and Muth’s toss to third baseman Jake Helleloid for a force-out would have negated the run to send the game to extra innings.
The umpires never saw the tag and the No. 9 Kernels was eliminated in the first round of the South Dakota High School Baseball Association Class A region tournament in a 4-3 loss to the eighth-seeded Knights Saturday at Harmodon Park.
“I wasn’t happy with some of the comments that were coming from the crowd throughout the course of the game and it wasn’t coming from our parents,” Norden said. “I’m proud of our fanbase, our parents and players about respecting the game — respecting out, safe, ball, strike calls. … The (umpires) said they missed it and there wasn’t anything they could do about it. There’s nothing I can do about the situation.”
The game-ending sequence was the last in a series of tough-luck plays for Mitchell in the final inning. In the top of the inning, a lead-off double by Helleloid put the Kernels in prime position to break a 3-3 game and Norden opted to play small ball.
Nick Lord’s bunt attempt popped into the air and O’Gorman (16-14) first baseman Andrew Barr made a sliding catch. Muth singled, but miscommunication canceled on a potential double steal with runners on the corners. Then a missed bunt on a suicide squeeze resulted in Helleloid getting tagged at the plate.
“We had a guy on second with no outs and we failed to get a bunt down to move the guy to third just to be able to hit a ground ball or put ourselves in a squeeze situation,” Norden said. “To not get a bunt down in those situations is critical.”
While the Kernels lamented missed opportunities, they would have also preferred to have more of them. Mitchell scored three runs on three hits in the first inning — including a two-run double by Jonah Schmidt and an RBI single by Dylan Soulek — but tallied three hits the remainder of the game.
Lack of offense allowed the Knights to chip away, as Jacob Schwab plated two with a two-out single in the bottom of the first. They tied the game when Schmidt was called for a balk with runners on the corners in the fifth.
“We were swinging through too many balls and weren’t trying to put the ball in play and we weren’t shortening up with two outs,” Norden said. “Towards the end of the game we did a better job of putting the ball in play and regrouping. We had guys in scoring position, waiting for a two-out hit and we had too many strikeouts, especially early on.”
Parker Bollinger finished 2-for-5, while Schmidt scattered three earned runs on six hits and three walks over 4 1/3 innings and struck out four. Jace Larson did not allow an earned run on one hit and two walks in 2 1/3 innings of relief.
Sam Stukel went 3-for-4 for O’Gorman and Reece Arbogast tossed a complete game, allowing two earned runs on six hits and one walk, while striking out six.
Mitchell finishes the season 16-13.