• REBUILDING PROCESS UNDER WAY AT MAC — It’s going to take time, but I think McPherson College football coach Paul Mierkiewicz has the Bulldogs trending in the right direction.
I can remember when Mierkiewicz first arrived at Mac in December of 2014 and then I went out to watch a spring practice. All that he had to work with — on a good day — was about two dozen players.
That’s right. The squad size of an 8-Man football team in Kansas.
Starting recruiting late because of his hiring date, Mierkiewicz and his staff still managed to land a nice-sized freshman class. He could have beaten the juco bushes, but he wants to build this program brick-by-brick.
Starting as many as 11 freshmen last fall, it was predictable the Bulldogs would be lucky to win a game. And while they were competitive in a couple of games, most were rather hopeless by halftime as you simply can’t play in the KCAC with freshmen against other team’s juniors and seniors.
Mierkiewicz has had a full year of recruiting and when I showed up Monday for the first practice, there were close to 80 candidates. And unlike last year, it resembled a football team.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a team that’s still going to struggle to win games but there is now hope. Many of those freshmen who experienced the pains of last year are back and driven to be better. The sting of last year lingers, but it also serves as a motivating factor. It would have been easy for that big freshman class to pack up and move on, but they stuck it out. You can tell many of them put in hard work during the offseason because they’re bigger, stronger and faster.
There also appears to be much more team speed, as last year the Bulldogs were snails playing against rabbits. There’s more depth at quarterback and receiver, though the running back situation is rather thin. However, the ones that are there are an upgrade.
Hopefully the college will give Mierkiewicz the time to get things turned around. He’s got a plan and is sticking to it. I think we’ll start to see some results this year and it will only get better next year.
• MHS UNDER WAY — I made it to the McPherson High practices on Monday except for cross country. I’m not a 6 a.m. person, which is when new coach Aspen Frey conducted her first of two practices.
MHS has enjoyed some incredible fall sports teams in the past decade. While some good seniors graduated in the various sports last year, there’s still enough talent on hand for the level to remain high.
I think the addition of summer camps has made the start of practices so much better. Coaches do a lot of teaching in the summer and athletes arrive in the fall already clued in about an offense or system. Tennis players hit the courts all summer, so they’re in go-mode from the beginning. Runners stay in shape no matter what time of the year it is.
I’m looking forward to the MHS Fall Preview on Friday, Aug. 26, at McPherson Stadium. McPherson fans should mark the date on their calendars.
• ROYALS NEARING .500 — After dropping to as many as seven games below .500 — 51-58 at one point — the Royals are finally getting the necessary starting pitching to climb back to the break-even point.
With seven wins in the last nine games, the Royals are within two games of .500 at 58-60. If they can just split the upcoming two road games with Detroit, they have a great chance chance to get to .500 or pass it with a four-game weekend series coming up at home against Minnesota, which looked like a team that has raised the white flag if last weekend’s series is any indication.
It all starts with the starting pitching. Except for the huge donut hole at the No. 5 spot — where Dillon Gee, Chris Young and Kris Medlen have been inept all season — the foursome of Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura, Ian Kennedy and Edinson Volquez are starting to hit their stride.
The Kansas City offense has been better in recent games, though Eric Hosmer and Salvy Perez are still struggling mightily. Hosmer has hit only three homers in the last 2 1/2 months while Perez’s average has fallen off the cliff. Both are trying to hit six-run homers and basically getting themselves out. The same could be said for Kendrys Morales and Alex Gordon, though Gordon has been on a six-game sizz in the last week.
If nothing else, this season has seen the nice development of Duffy, Cheslor Cuthbert and Paulo Orlando, all of whom have been breakout performers. Injuries have derailed this team, yet it’s still on the fringe of being heard from. I still think with all things considered, a .500 season wouldn’t be too bad.