Creating success: Three keys to Mitchell Post 18 baseball's strong summer start

Jul. 6—MITCHELL — Nearly 30 games into its American Legion baseball season, the Mitchell Post 18 baseball team is enjoying success.

Post 18 stands with a record of 20-9, which has been bolstered by three straight wins and 13 victories in the last 16 games, with only one of those losses coming to a South Dakota opponent (at Pierre on June 29).

It is a stark bounceback from the 16-26 Legion campaign in 2021 and Mitchell is poised for its best summer season since 2019, when Post 18 was 33-17. In the most recent Class A postseason standings, Mitchell was No. 3, with only Brandon Valley and Rapid City Post 22 in front of them.

Mitchell will be tested more this weekend at the annual 96-team Gopher Classic, with Mitchell playing its five games in St. Paul, Minnesota on the campus of NCAA Division III program Northwestern College. If Mitchell wins its pool, it would advance to the 16-team championship bracket, which would play out on July 11 and 12.

With the context in place, below are three statistical breakdowns showing why Mitchell is off to a strong start.

Mitchell's top of the order lineup has delivered big numbers so far in the Legion season. Leadoff hitter Seth Muth is hitting .360 and has driven in 16 runs with 30 runs scored, with No. 2 slot hitter Dylan Soulek driving in 25 runs with 12 extra-base hits, an on-base percentage of .550 and a batting average of .427, leading the team in those last three categories. (Soulek is the only Post 18 player to participate in all 29 games this season.)

Jake Helleloid continues to lead Mitchell in home runs with four and has an on-base percentage of .485, while driving in a team-best 29 runs. Jonah Schmidt has also been a menace at the plate, with a team-high five triples and 26 RBIs. Add in Jace Larson's 19 RBIs and 18 runs scored for the season, and those five players have accounted for nearly 62% of the runs scored this season in Mitchell's lineup.

On multiple occasions this summer, Mitchell has seen that part of the lineup either start a key offensive stretch or capitalize on what the bottom of the order can get started.

If there's one aspect that has carried over nicely from the high school spring season, it is Mitchell's pitching efforts.

Mitchell pitchers are allowing opponents to hit .252 on the season, with six pitchers holding their opposing hitters to batting averages of .217 or less. The team ERA stands at 3.47 through nearly 30 games.

That's led by Helleloid, who is yielding a batting average of .202 in a team-best 33 innings pitched this season, while pumping out 51 strikeouts. Soulek (2.17 ERA) and Landon Waddell (1.88 ERA) have each thrown nearly 30 innings and both have a 4-0 record. Peyton Schroder and Jonah Schmidt each had 22 innings pitched, with Schroder standing with a 3.18 ERA.

The defense has also been better than many of Mitchell's opponents, converting .960% of their fielding chances. Mitchell has committed 1.1 errors per game, slightly ahead of the average pace of their opponents, who are committing 1.6 errors per contest.

Altogether, Mitchell has six shutouts on the season and 13 games in which they have allowed two runs or less.

The mixture of strong hitting and good defense and pitching has allowed Post 18 to build some confidence at the plate. From June 15-24, Mitchell had eight straight games of scoring at least nine runs in a game, including a season-high 18 runs in a home win over Libby, Montana.

Post 18 is hitting .312 as a team with an on-base percentage of .429, generating seven runs per game. Mitchell has done a good job of getting on base, with 161 free passes picked up via walks or hit batsmen. No Mitchell batter has an OBP of .314 or lower, finding ways to extend at-bats and create offense.

In situations with runners in scoring position, Mitchell is hitting .381 as a team on balls hit in play. Climbing into the batters' box with two outs, Mitchell has driven in 58 runs.