If nothing else, McPherson High’s baseball team is resilient.
The Bullpups, who got off the deck against Buhler last week with a nine-run final inning for a 14-9 victory, showed amazing bounce-back skills throughout Monday’s home opener against Andale-Garden Plain in sweeping the Indians in one of the exciting twinbills in recent Grant Complex history.
In the first game, the Bullpups were down 3-1 and 5-4 before finally winning it in the bottom of the seventh when Honestee Whittker put down a bunt and an overthrow to first by the pitcher allowed Jakob Feil to race home with the winning run in a 6-5 decision.
The second game was a tremendous roller-coaster ride. MHS was down 3-2, 5-4 and 8-6 before staging a stunning rally to send Andale-Garden Plain home with its second straight heart-breaking loss of the night, 9-8.
Zane Myers hit a rocket off the pitcher’s leg and the subsequent error led to MHS again winning it, set up by two walks and two hit batters. The Bullpups scored three runs in the final inning.
MHS coach Heath Gerstner admitted that while honored, he was surprised his young team, chockfull of new starters, was ranked No. 3 in Class 4A Division I. He thought it was based more on past performance, as this is a new team with new contributors.
But this is a never-say-die group. You have no idea, unless you were at the game, how deflated the Bullpups were in Game 2 after Andale came up with its three-run rally in the top of the seventh for the 8-6 lead.
Two of the first three MHS hitters in the bottom of the seventh made an out, but a walk and back-to-back hit batters gave the team hope. Myers’ line drive off pitcher Zach McCormick’s leg resulted in an overthrow and the Bullpups walked it off. It’s shocking when a team wins back-to-back walk-off games, but for an error by the pitcher to decide both outcomes is borderline remarkable.
The Bullpups didn’t exactly pound the ball in the cold conditions— 13 hits in two games — and they committed eight errors on the night as trying to throw the ball was like handling a bar of soap as the wind chill had to be in the 20s by the time the 5-hour night was over.
But Gerstner said this team — quite honestly not as talented as the previous three he has coached — showed a grit and determination that is admirable. It never gave up, it overcome adversity and trudged on no matter the odds.
I’m not saying this Bullpup team is going on to win a state championship or even qualify. Question marks still abound in regards to starting pitching and its best hurler, Dylan Werries, is being used in relief. He tied a record set by millions as he was credited with wins in both games out of the bullpen. Kudos, too, have to go to his young sophomore catcher Spencer Whitfield, who was a wall behind the dish and allowed very few balls to get past him.
It will be interesting to track the Bullpups’ progress this year as due to youth and inexperience, it’s a team that will have its up and downs. But for sure excitement, you can’t top what transpired on Monday.