Jun. 1—MITCHELL — Dylan Soulek took matters into his own hands to make sure the Mitchell Post 18 Legion baseball season got off to a winning start.
Soulek tossed a complete game shutout of Renner Post 307 and drove in the only runs of the game on a home run in the sixth inning to propel Post 18 to a 2-0 victory Tuesday night at Drake Field.
It was a duel between Soulek and Renner starting pitcher Wyatt Hermsen all evening, as the pair recorded quick out after quick out and gave up just nine total hits, allowing the contest to cruise along and finish in under 75 minutes.
"[Soulek] did a really good job of putting together quick innings, and then their pitcher (Hermsen) did a really nice job of throwing strikes, too," said Mitchell coach Luke Norden, noting the game's quick pace.
While Soulek methodically made his way through the Renner lineup, allowing the occasional walk or hit, Hermsen made quick work of Post 18 the first time through. In all, Hermsen retired the first 11 batters he faced before a Peyton Mandel two-out single in the fourth inning.
Jace Larson looked to get the offense rolling with a leadoff double to start the bottom half of the fifth inning, but was shortly thereafter thrown out at third base on a batted ball that resulted in a double play.
"In a close game like that, you're just calculating your chances and not letting those opportunities pass by," Norden said. "You look at how many scoring chances, and if you don't capitalize on those in a game like that, it generally comes back to bite you."
But in this instance, it did not, as Renner fell victim to a similar base running debacle the very next half-inning when Manny Struck, was thrown out at home plate trying to score the game's first run from second base on a hard-hit ball that stayed in the infield.
With so few hits to choose from, a pair surrendered by Hermsen with two outs in the bottom of the sixth was by far the most damaging.
Mitchell center fielder Seth Muth sent a ball along the ground to right field for a single before Soulek strode into the batter's box and launched a fly ball deep down the left-field line and over the fence.
"The mindset was to throw more strikes and not allow guys to get on base, but I ended up walking the first two guys," Soulek said of his approach having secured a two-run cushion entering the seventh inning. "I kind of made it tough on myself, but guys made plays again and we got the win."
Soulek, who pitched 19 2/3 innings during Mitchell High School's spring baseball season with a 3.92 ERA, struck out six Royals and walked three while allowing four hits across his seven innings on the mound. Mandel recorded two of Post 18's five hits in his three at-bats to lead Mitchell's production behind Soulek's homer and two RBIs.
Hermsen pitched all six innings for Renner, striking out three with no walks and five hits allowed. Quinn Dunham singled twice in the contest to account for half of Post 307's hits, with Leo Hueners adding a triple for the Royals' only extra-base hit.
The outcome of Tuesday night's contest — the Legion season-opener for both teams, was particularly sweet for a Mitchell group fresh off a state runner-up finish at the Class A state tournament on May 28.
"Coming off of a tough loss (in the state championship game) the other night, it was kind of hard to pick it up today and we were a little flat," Soulek said. "But the guys behind me — especially Jace [Larson], Seth [Muth], Hudson [Haley] and Landon [Waddell] — made really nice plays. I had a lot of help today, and it was fun to go out there and throw strikes."
Mitchell Post 18 will be in action next at the Veterans' Classic in Rapid City, set to take place June 2-5.