Gaines hits for the cycle in #8 Bluejackets’ 15-2 win over Shoals

By Noah Dalton

SHOALS – Mitchell High School, the #8 ranked team in 2A, was firing on all cylinders in their second game of the year on Saturday morning, dominantly beating Shoals 15-2 in just five innings, before the game ended due to the IHSAA’s 10-run mercy rule.

The Bluejackets found plenty of success at the plate against the Jug Rox, earning 13 hits, though the standout among them was senior Simon Gaines, who finished the day a perfect 5-5, batting in seven runs and hitting for the cycle, with a single, two doubles, a triple and a three-run homer in the fifth inning.

Mitchell head coach Jerry Chaney spoke highly of Gaines, who is committed to playing for Wabash Valley College next year, also noting that the shortstop also had a big day in their last trip to Shoals, hitting three home runs, with six RBIs in the matchup last season.

Simon Gaines crushes a pitch to deep left field for a triple against Shoals

“Well, he likes playing on this field. He hit three out here last year. Tonight he hit the cycle. I thought his bat, he came to play tonight. I think he gave up some swings, I think he was mad about that deep down inside, but he’d never tell you that. He came out with a fire in his eyes batting and when he hits like that we’re going to be tough,” said Chaney. “It’s nice to have the luxury of a guy that’s going to play at Wabash Valley College. He’s a good player, Simon is the real deal and I hope people are starting to realize that. He wasn’t on the preseason all-state team, but I believe by the end of the year he will be. Defensively, he’s one of the best around.”

The Bluejackets got going early against the Jug Rox, starting the first inning with a lead-off single from Gaines, who stole second and second the first run of the game thanks to an error from Shoals during the next at-bat. Back-to-back Mitchell batters, Ben Seitzinger and Gibson Glassco, reached base before they were brought home by swings from Bryson Zeeks and Ethan Turner.

The Bluejackets scored their fourth and final run of the first when Kody Earl hit a double to right field, giving way for Turner to round the bases.

Mitchell’s Ethan Turner rounds third on his way to score

Shoals fought back in the bottom of the inning, loading the bases before Mitchell recorded an out for cleanup hitter Jameson Coy, who smashed a single to right field, allowing Malachi McNabb and Braden Lents to score from third and second.

After that hit, Mitchell and their pitcher Ashton Luman settled, recording three straight outs, with Luman striking out two, to retire the side.

Chaney said he felt his team got off to a flat start on what was a windy, early morning, giving the Jug Rox a chance to take advantage early, which they did to find a pair of runs.

Ashton Luman throws a pitch against Shoals

“I think that we were a little flat at the beginning and the wind does that to you, and the game was moved up two hours. We thought we were going to be playing at noon,” he said. “[Shoals] put the bat on the ball, and the ball went where we weren’t and then we had a couple of wild pitches there and they were able to get a couple of runs. Credit to them, that was good, but after that, I thought our pitching and defense was solid. We did what we’re supposed to do.”

From that point, it was all Bluejackets.

Mitchell finished out the game on an 11-0 run, shutting out Shoals for the remainder of play, as their bats continued to shine.

Seven Bluejackets batters earned hits on the day; Gaines, Seitzinger, Glassco, Zeeks, Turner, Earl and Michael Webster.

Kody Earl hits a single to right field against Shoals

Luman and Earl split time at the mound. Luman got the start, allowing three hits to 15 batters, with six strikeouts. Earl took over to close the third, giving up zero hits against the final 10 who stepped to the plate. The three hits from the Jug Rox came on consecutive at bats in first inning. They were held without a hit for the remainder of play.

Mitchell are now 2-0 to start the year. After last year’s postseason run where they won both sectional and regional titles, the Bluejackets are looking to build from their past success, as they’ve returned nearly their entire roster from last season.

They’ll be leaning on the veteran leadership from those returning players throughout the year, as they look to keep up their winning ways.

Mitchell’s Ben Seitzinger runs home to score a run

“We do have high expectations, we always do. We want to win the PLAC. and we want to win the sectional. We want to get better. We want to be better every day. And if that’s winning, we win. A lot of kids in this group, I’m so proud of who they’re becoming,” Chaney said.

This is the same group I’ve started with since they were freshmen. So today, we started eight seniors. I don’t know if we’ll stick with that, but we’re senior laden. We’re a veteran ballclub and the boys are kind of taking a leadership role too. So, I’ve told them, I said ‘we’ll be as good as you guys want to be.’ And I think we have the potential to be good now.”

They now eye their next matchup, a rematch against from last year’s sectional against Linton-Stockton, who have yet to play a game, on Monday.

The Bluejackets emerged victorious from their last battle, an 11-inning thriller in the sectional semi-finals, which saw Mitchell advance thanks to a walk-off from Luman.