Maybe the Kansas City Royals’ pitchers need to take a trip to McPherson for some tips.
Royals pitchers have walked 23 batters in their first three games, all losses to the supposedly wretched Minnesota Twins.
Meanwhile, McPherson High pitchers have walked 4 — that’s right, 4 — batters during the Bullpups’ blazing 3-0 start.
Starting pitching supposedly was the Bullpups’ most crucial weakness going into the season. MHS graduated longtime staples Caleb Schmidt, Marcus McDaniel, Micah McCulley and Jacob Loecker after last season, leaving Jack Reifschneider as the lone pitcher with any distinction.
With the new pitching limits imposed nationally and at the state level, quality pitching is even more at a premium.
So far, MHS pitchers have been jaw-dropping. Dylan Werries pitched six hitless innings in the opener last week, with Raine Reitsma completing the no-hitter. On Thursday, Reitsma moved into a starting role and responded with six innings of four-hit, one-run baseball, the only run allowed being unearned. Reifschneider, in an effort to get some work in before his first start of the year on Monday at Andale, blew away three straight Vikings on whiffs to close the game out.
In Game 2, Jeff Reed dazzled Winfield by allowing a couple of measly singles in five innings. Trey Hanken came on to complete the 10-0 shutout.
In both games, the four Bullpup pitchers didn’t walk a single hitter.
I had never given pitch counts that much of a thought while covering games, now it’s at the forefront. There’s even a pitch-count scoreboard at MHS home games to let pitchers know where they stand.
McPherson coach Heath Gerstner is beyond ecstatic at this point, but he’s still cautiously optimistic about his staff as he's aware Wichita Collegiate and Winfield could be two of the weakest teams on the schedule. The Bullpups will have a monster matchup at Andale Monday as Gerstner believes the Indians could be one of the favorites to win Class 4A Division II. He’s lined things up so that Reifschneider and Werries can start those games. Generally a split with Andale is considered a good day, a sweep is almost unprecedented.
Gerstner gives a lot of credit to assistant coach Aaron Alvord. The former Canton-Galva All-Stater later went on to pitch in the Detroit Tigers’ farm system and his experience is invaluable. His underlings are soaking up all the knowledge they can and allows Gerstner to concentrate on other aspects of the game as he knows the pitching is in good hands.
With teams like Buhler, Rose Hill and Salina South still on the schedule, the Bullpups will be severely tested. Pitching and defense are going to have to be strengths as this isn’t a team that’s going to pound teams with an extra-base attack. MHS is going to ping the ball around the park and count on intelligent baserunning to manufacture runs.
The Bullpups were second in the state two years ago and last year narrowly lost to Buhler in the regional finals, with the Crusaders going on to win the state championship in dominant fashion. MHS hopes to get back to state to finish the business it started in 2015.