• CLASS AAA STATE SCHEDULE •
• At Great Bend •
• Wednesday •
1:00 — McPherson vs. Oskaloosa
3:30 — Newton vs. Chanute
6:00 — Salina vs. Emporia
8:30 — Ottawa vs. Great Bend
• Thursday •
10:00 — Loser McPherson-Oskaloosa vs. loser Newton-Chanute
12:30 — Loser Salina-Emporia vs. loser Ottawa-Great Bend
6:00 — Winner McPherson-Oskaloosa vs. winner Newton-Chanute
8:30 — Winner Salina-Emporia vs. winner Ottawa-Great Bend
• Friday •
10:00 — Loser’s bracket game
12:30 — Loser’s bracket game
5:00 — Winner’s bracket finals
8:30 — Loser’s bracket game
• Saturday •
10:00 — Loser’s bracket finals
12:30 — Championship game
• Sunday •
10:00 — Championship game (if needed)
Tony Schmidt speaks with a quiet confidence about his McPherson Senior American Legion Post 24 baseball team that opens Class AAA state play on Wednesday in Great Bend.
McPherson kicks off the tournament by taking on Oskaloosa in the 1 p.m. game. Should Post 24 triumph, it would play Thursday’s 6 p.m. game against the winner of Chanute and Newton.
In the bottom half of Wednesday’s action, Salina is matched against Emporia at 6:00, with Great Bend tangling with defending champion Ottawa at 8:30.
The tournament is double-elimination and could play all the way out to Sunday if it goes the limit. Most coaches will tell you the key is staying in the winner’s bracket and not losing early as the comeback trail can exhaust a pitching staff.
“I feel really good about our chances,” said Schmidt, whose team takes a 22-5 record into the tournament. “I thought we played well in the zone tournament. We pitched well and we hit the ball well. And we had some guys that weren’t hitting who normally do.”
McPherson certainly has the pedigree to make a deep run. The core group of this team won the Class A state title in 2014, then took second last year in the Class AAA tournament as it was in good position for a repeat championship, only to see Ottawa charge back to win back-to-back games.
During the 2016 spring campaign, McPherson High was ranked No. 1 for much of the season. However, it lost in the regional championship game to Buhler, which went on to cruise to the state title.
Post 24 would appear to have a favorable matchup in the first round. Schmidt said Oskaloosa has an 11-23 record and he’s not clear the level of competition it plays.
It also has dictated how Schmidt has set up his pitching rotation.
“I feel like with our pitching (depth), for the first time we’re not in a position where we have to throw our ace in the first round,” Schmidt said. “We can save some pitching.”
The Game 1 pitcher, Schmidt said, would be Alex Kalkhorst.
“He’s a very good pitcher. I know we he can get the job done,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt then could go with either Jack Reifschneider or Caleb Schmidt in Game 2. Whichever gets the nod, the other figures to go in the third game provided the team advances. Then there’s still Dylan Werries, Marcus McDaniel and Jacob Loecker, all of whom have pitched in big situations during the year.
Schmidt also has depth at his other positions. Kalkhorst and Cody Starkel make up an unquestioned unbeatable 1-2 punch at catcher. Most of the McPherson infielders can play multiple positions. The return of Reifschneider is a boon to the outfield defense as few center fielders can go get it like him.
If the tournament has a familiar look it’s because it does. Six of the eight teams in last year’s tournament at Grant Complex got through, with only Wichita and Garden City not returning. Garden City was ousted at last week’s zone at Great Bend, losing 6-1 to McPherson.