May 28—SIOUX FALLS — A late rally gave the Mitchell High School baseball team control of a Class A semifinal contest against top-seeded Sioux Falls Roosevelt, and despite a furious response by the Rough Riders in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Kernels secured their place in the state title game with a 5-4 win Saturday afternoon at Sioux Falls Stadium.
The normally potent Kernel offense didn't push any runs across until there were two outs in the sixth inning, but when the breakthrough finally came, it was in a flurry. Mitchell (18-7) put up three runs in the sixth and tacked on two more in the seventh to reverse a one-run deficit into a one-run victory over Roosevelt (18-2).
Mitchell will play the winner of the second semifinal between No. 6 Sioux Falls Washington and No. 7 Sioux Falls Lincoln at approximately 5:30 p.m. Saturday for the Class A state title.
"As hard as these guys have worked and as focused as they've been the past couple of weeks, they deserve everything that happened," said Mitchell coach Luke Norden.
The lone run from the first five innings of play came on a Marcus Phillips RBI single in the bottom of the first inning, which appeared to give Roosevelt Ben Irsfeld a boost. After allowing a double to Dylan Soulek and hitting Jonah Schmidt with a pitch in the first inning, Irsfeld retired 14 of the next 15 batters he faced.
"We came in after the fifth and Coach Van Overschelde said, "We've got 'em right where we want 'em,'" Norden said. "We changed our approach at the plate just a little bit to not swing so aggressively early in the count and were able to score."
That was until Soulek walked with two outs in the sixth, which was quickly followed by a Schmidt single and a towering two-RBI triple by starting pitcher Jake Helleloid, who then scored on an error by Roosevelt third baseman Brayden Byrum on a batted ball by Jace Larson.
"I just knew I had to go out there and do my job and that my teammates would get on base and we'd make something happen," Helleloid said.
After a quick inning of work by Helleloid, Mitchell added two more runs on the back of singles by Brock Sparks, Seth Muth, Soulek and Schmidt.
But Roosevelt did not go quietly.
As Helleloid hit his pitch-count limit before recording an out in the seventh, Soulek was brought in close out the game but lasted only one-third of an inning before being relieved by Schmidt. After turning a 5-1 scoreline to 5-4, Roosevelt had the bases loaded with two outs, but Schmidt struck out fellow first-team all-state selection Jack Radel on a full count to advance the Kernels into the title tilt.
"It gets nerve-wracking," Helleloid said. "You get that feeling in your stomach and just keep thinking, 'Come on, just one more out,' and then Jonah got it done."
Helleloid lasted six innings in his duel with Irsfeld, a fellow first-team all-state pitcher and the Class A player of the year, striking out five while allowing two hits, five walks and three earned runs.
Soulek and Schmidt each reached base three times and had two hits for the Kernels.
Opposite Helleloid, Irsfeld had nine strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings with six hits, two walks and four earned runs allowed.
"It's awesome," Helleloid said of the opportunity to be one of the final two teams remaining. "Some people only dream about this and we get to do it."