While the McPherson Senior American Legion’s pulsating 14-13 walk-off victory over Buhler Tuesday night at Grant Complex didn’t totally erase the heartache of last month’s regional loss, it did ease the sting a bit.
Buhler defeated McPherson 11-9 in the regional championship game a few weeks back and went on to roar through the Class 4A Division I State Tournament for its first-ever title.
While the makeup of the teams was somewhat different on Tuesday — both were missing some key players from that May matchup — that didn’t lessen the intensity in what turned into a 3-hour-plus, ebb-and-flow marathon.
The game was to have been played in Buhler, but was shifted during the day to Grant Complex. Still, enough word filtered out to produce a buzzworthy crowd.
Post 24 really had its fans buzzing as it scored eight runs off Dillon Engelland in the bottom of the first after spotting the Nationals a 3-0 lead in the top of the inning.
The game turned into a slugfest, though it was a bases-loaded walk coaxed by Alex Sitts that pushed across the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning. Sitts was down 1-2 in the count before showing a good eye at three straight off-the-plate dealings by Gus Quillan, who had just entered the game. Mikey Saverino had tied the game at 13 with a single.
“What I’m happy most about is 17 hits,” said McPherson coach Tony Schmidt, whose team is now 7-0 on the season. “We’re still hitting the ball. I’m real happy. We didn’t get down after it was 3-0. They were a little different team and we were, too.”
The Nationals did not have players such as Jace Williams, Hunter Ogburn and Ethan White, while McPherson was without Casen Hoover (stiff neck), Jack Reifschneider (injured ankle) and Micah McCulley (not on the roster). Yet, it was evident it was McPherson-Buhler and it made for great theatre.
Post 24 received a nice boost from reliever Raine Reitsma, who followed Caleb Schmidt and Alex Kalkhorst to the mound. Reitsma worked four innings and the two runs he allowed were unearned. Dylan Werries was the winner with 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief.
“We thought we would get only an inning from him,” Schmidt said of Reitsma. “He threw real well. He threw this weekend for the Juniors, too, and then came up here and established himself. He got some confidence.”
Cody Starkel, who red-shirted at Fort Hays this past spring but is still eligible to play Legion ball, had three hits to match Saverino and Schmidt. Werries and Marcus McDaniel had two apiece. Saverino also drove in three runs, while Sitts, McDaniel, Werries and Jeff Reed were all credited with two RBIs.
McPherson’s home game tonight against the Wichita Aviators has been cancelled. The team heads to Topeka for a weekend tournament.
• McPherson (14) — McDaniel 5-1-2-2, Werries 5-1-2-2, Loecker 5-2-1-1, Starkel 5-1-3-1, Eilts 0-1-0-0, J. Reed 2-1-1-2, Schmidt 4-3-3-1, Saverino 5-1-3-3, K. Reed 4-0-1-0, Kalkhorst 0-1-0-0, Reitsma 2-0-0-0, Sitts 2-2-1-2.