Key stretch for Pipeliners

By Steve Sell
June 28, 2018

The state of the McPherson Pipeliners’ baseball season is on the line the next three days.

The Pipeliners, a summer college baseball team in their first year in McPherson, will be home tonight for two games against the Wellington Heat, who are considered the crown jewel of the Kansas Collegiate League Baseball.

After tonight, the Pipeliners go to Augusta on Friday to play the Kansas Cannons, then return to Wellington on Saturday. Both teams are directly ahead of the Pipeliners in the standings.

Pipeliner officials are hoping for a big crowd tonight for the 6:00 doubleheader. According to team spokesman Chad Pinson, Wellington has huge and enthusiastic crowds for its home games and the team also travels well. Light Capital Diamond could be hopping tonight with excitement.

Wellington uses a template the other teams in the league try to follow. It is a well-established program, having been in existence for 25 years. It is a past national champion, one reason it draws so well. It has won approximately 75 percent of its games since forming.

The Pipeliners are still finding their way into the McPherson community. Team officials have done a nice job of putting a good product on the field and try to make the home games festive. There are giveaways as well as a sponsor of the night. They also work with the youth of McPherson with their Little Liners program.

Wellington is 10-4 in the league, 1-1 against the Pipeliners. It has the fewest number of losses in the KCLB, though the Kansas Cannons, who were here on Tuesday, have the most wins at 13, but they have six losses.

This is my first year of covering summer college baseball. I’ve only seen the home games, but what I have surmised is that it all comes down to pitching. All the teams seemingly can hit the ball, but the ones that have pitchers that can throw strikes seem to have the advantage.

The Pipeliners, like any first-year program, have struggled with inconsistency, reflected in their 8-9 record, 6-8 in league play. They have won back-to-back games only once, but also haven’t had an extended losing streak.

When talking with manager Caleb Hartman after Tuesday’s home loss to the Cannons, it’s obvious he believes in his team as in the losses it seems to be one big inning early that has done it in. Such was the case on Tuesday when the Cannons, aided by three errors, put up five runs in the third inning and then fended off the Pipeliners’ comeback attempts.

The Pipeliners have hit the ball consistently, but they’re a gap-hitting team that takes advantage of their speed as they hit very few long balls. Pitching-wise, the Pipeliners are still looking for that head-of-the-rotation guy, the pitcher they know can go out and deliver seven solid innings on a consistent basis.

Tonight is huge for the Liners. A split or even a sweep would vault them in contention and show they are a team to be reckoned with. Head to the ballpark and give them a look.