SALINA — McPherson’s Junior American Legion baseball team missed out on qualifying for state in the cruelest of fashions.
Post 24 entered Wednesday’s Class A Zone Tournament needing to win just one of two games against the Salina Hawks on their home turf at Dean Evans Stadium to advance.
But the Hawks broke open the first game late with a 10-run inning for a 15-4 victory to set up a winner-take-all game.
In a thriller, Post 24 scored a run in the top of the seventh inning to tie it at 3-3, then took a 4-3 lead in the top of the eighth on a wild pitch leaving it just three outs away from making an unlikely trip to Great Bend.
But Salina (29-10) walked it off with two runs, with Brady McAfee’s RBI single sending the Hawks onward. As rallies often do, the inning opened with a hit by pitch, followed by a walk and then an error. McAfee’s hit was the only one of the inning.
The ending spoiled what had been a great script for McPherson. It had finished just 4-18 during the regular season, but won three straight tourney games to make the finals.
Salina, however, had enough pitching left to make an exhaustive run through the losers bracket as it won five straight games after losing its opener to Great Bend.
In the second championship game, Post 24 was held to four hits. But Zane Myers kept McPherson in the game with seven outstanding innings on the mound and the three runs he allowed were unearned. Raine Reitsma and Gunnar Reiss worked in relief, but couldn’t hold the Hawks down.
The first-game final score was somewhat deceiving as it was a 5-4 game heading into the top of the seventh when the Hawks erupted for 10 runs. Post 24’s defense broke down as it finished the game with seven errors.
Reitsma worked into the fifth before Reiss came on. Joel Muhs and Honestee Whittker also pitched. Post 24 was doubled in hits, 12-6.
• Game 1 •
McPherson (4) — Reiss 3-0-1-1, Myers 4-0-1-0, Seidl 3-0-0-0, Hanken 3-1-0-0, Muhs 4-1-1-0, Reistma 1-0-0-0, Whittker 1-1-1-0, Starkel 2-1-1-0, Steinert 4-0-1-0, Scott 1-0-0-1, Wiard 0-0-0-0.
• Game 2 •
McPherson (4) — Reiss 4-0-0-0, Myers 3-2-0-0, Seidl 4-0-1-0, Hanken 2-0-1-1, Starkel 2-1-1-1, Steinert 4-0-1-0, Reitsma 3-0-0-0, Muhs 1-1-0-0, Whittker 2-0-0-0, Scott 2-0-0-0, Wiard 0-0-0-0.