The “swag” was back for the McPherson High baseball team as it celebrated Senior Night at Grant Complex Thursday by taking on El Dorado, which along with the Bullpups and Buhler were bottlenecked at the top of the AVCTL Division III standings with two league losses each at the start of the day.
The Bullpups swelled up and flexed their muscles to roll to 12-5 and 10-0 victories.
MHS actually has played more games than the other two challengers as its only D-III games left are two against tailender Winfield. Buhler split on Thursday and is left with three losses, while the Bullpups probably ended the Wildcats’ chances as they now have four.
The Bullpups had leaked oil in their last appearance, a desultory 10-error performance in which they admitted they were fortunate to split with Buhler as they made a huge rally to win Game 1 before a putrid Game 2 performance that left the team doing some soul searching after the game. The body language in that second game reeked of disinterest and it easily was the clunker of the season.
That performance was not befitting of the then-No. 1-ranked team (MHS is now No. 2). Second-year coach Heath Gerstner, who has done a terrific job of constructing this program, held a long postgame session and informed his team it had to get back to playing “the McPherson way.”
That meant a lot of running. And running. And more running.
The Bullpups ran circles around El Dorado, including straight steals of home by Marcus McDaniel and Jacob Loecker. It was Loecker’s theft in Game 2 that totally scrambled the emotions of the Wildcats and they crumbled under the Bullpups’ relentless pressure.
After pinging 63 singles in their first 82 hits this season, MHS was able to deliver some meaty extra-base blows against the Wildcats. Though the Bullpups are still without a homer, they have the ability to drive the ball into the gaps and use their speed.
Jack Reifschneider’s no-hitter highlighted a good performance by the MHS pitching staff after four pitchers had cobbled together Game 1. He wobbled at times with control, but gutted it out with a crackling curve and spotted fastball.
Gerstner wants his team to be uber-aggressive, even if it means running into some outs where the casual fan might be scratching their head and say, “why did he do that?” He said his team is at its best when it “plays with their hair on fire,” and most of all, the game looked fun again. There was a lot more energy than the team that played like it was entitled against Buhler, probably because it was getting a bit too comfy in its lofty No. 1 perch.
The Bullpups have three doubleheaders left and the next two will test their mettle and resolve – a road doubleheader at Maize South and a twinbill at home against Andale-Garden Plain, two of the toughest teams on the schedule. Those games certainly will be a good lead-in to the regional, the toughest in 4A Division I with MHS, Hays and Buhler all certainly state worthy, but only one can go.