BASEBALL: Mitchell brings MVC background to Sparta head coaching role


New Sparta head baseball coach Nate Mitchell is no stranger to the Mississippi Valley Conference.

Growing up in La Crosse, Mitchell played baseball at La Crosse Logan and graduated in 2009. After attending Minnesota State University, Mankato, he came back to the La Crosse area and began his venture into coaching.

Mitchell started with coaching as part of the La Crosse Boys and Girls Club, coached a couple different youth teams and then joined the coaching staff at his alma mater under head coaches Phil Klar and Andy Ellenbecker.

Additionally, Mitchell has been an assistant for Legion baseball teams in both La Crosse and Sparta.

Upon getting his teaching license, Mitchell got a job at Meadowview Middle School in Sparta and joined the varsity baseball staff under predecessor Bob Stuessel for the last four years.

Now, it's Mitchell's turn to take the reins as a varsity head coach for the first time.

In his new role, Mitchell wants his teams to consistently be giving it all they have in practice and during games. Win or lose, the effort should always be there.

"For my teams, I really want us to be the hardest working team out there," Mitchell said. "I truly believe that baseball is a sport where you can outwork teams and out-effort teams doing the little things, like infielders diving at groundballs that are 50/50 balls that some other teams might not dive at, grinding out at-bats just to make a pitcher throw three extra pitches — being just that team that is never going to say die."

There are some challenges facing Mitchell's Spartans right from the outset this season. Preston Alexander, who would've been a starting outfielder and one of their more reliable returning bats, will miss the entirety of his senior season due to a torn ACL.

Though Alexander is still around the team trying to help however he can, that injury robs Sparta of a veteran player on a team that was already going to be relying fairly heavily on youth and inexperience.

"As we move forward, you're going to see a lot of youth on our team," Mitchell said. "We're going to be fairly young starting anywhere from three to potentially seven sophomores at any given time, which makes for a young team, but it also shows the vision in a few years of what this team could look like."

Mitchell pointed in particular to the team's pitching staff as an area that has the potential to be a strength as the younger guys develop and get better acclimated to this level of competition.

The Spartans also aren't without their returning veteran leadership, headlined by senior Ryne Brueggeman, who was a second-team all-conference selection last year.

As Sparta tries to effectively blend its younger players in with the varsity returnees under a new head coach, Mitchell hopes it takes the program down a path that leads to greater competitiveness for them within the MVC.

"The goal we have is really to be competitive in the conference," Mitchell said. "We've really struggled the last few years to remain competitive in a tough Mississippi Valley Conference, and that's one of our goals."

Nate Mitchell, Sparta baseball, Sparta Spartans, Mississippi Valley Conference, Wisconsin high school baseball


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