For the majority of the McPherson Senior American Legion baseball team, it’s the final go-around.
A group that has arguably accomplished more than any other in Legion Post 24 history could be playing together for the final time this weekend in Great Bend, though the goal is to play beyond the Class AAA Zone Tournament.
Post 24 takes on host Great Bend at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in what McPherson coach Tony Schmidt calls the “toughest zone in the state.” Buhler, which consists greatly of players who won the Class 4A Division I state title in May, takes on Garden City in the other first-round game. All Garden City has done is win 26 of 28 games and it’s already assured of advancing because it’s hosting state.
“I don’t care who they played to win 26 games, you’ve played some good teams along the way,” Schmidt said.
If Garden City wins this zone, then the runner-up team advances as well.
The core group for Post 24 is hoping to add one more impressive accomplishment to its legacy.
Two years ago, Post 24 captured the Class A state title —the first Legion title for McPherson in 40 years. Proving it was no fluke, McPherson finished second in Class AAA last year as Ottawa came back through the loser’s bracket to win two games for the title.
Schmidt admits even with most of the same cast back, it’s been a different year. The team is 20-5, though has been somewhat inconsistent at times. It started the summer blasting the ball all about the park, but some of the hitters have cooled.
Still, it generally comes down to pitching. Caleb Schmidt and Dylan Werries probably will work the first two games, according to the McPherson coach, and then the staff will see how it goes from there. A wild-card could be Jack Reifschneider, who has been out all summer with an ankle injury, but was cleared this week to resume throwing. If he’s able to pitch an inning or two, it would be a bonus.
Schmidt said Great Bend played in the Hooper Showcase. The Chiefs were one of only two teams that were 3-0 when the tournament was halted by rain. However, they defeated Newton only 6-4 (Post 24 was 3-1 against the Knights) and Great Bend also defeated Junction City just 5-3, a team McPherson was 4-0 against.
If Post 24 wins its opener, it plays at 3 p.m. Monday against the Garden City-Buhler winner. Should McPherson lose against Great Bend, it plays again Sunday at 5:00 against that loser.