Don't count out the MHS softball team

By Steve Sell
May 11, 2017

Thursday’s thoughts...

• MHS SOFTBALL A STATE SLEEPER? — McPherson High’s softball team is just 3-15 on the season.

But it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the Bullpups make the Class 4A Division I State Tournament.

First off, the Bullpups will be home on Tuesday for their four-team regional at Grant Complex. It never hurts to play in familiar surroundings.

Secondly, for all the powerhouse regionals and sub-states that McPherson High is generally included in, this is not the case this time. In fact, the Bullpups are in arguably the weakest regional in the class.

At the time of the pairings. Wamego was at .500 at 8-8. Abilene was 5-13, MHS 2-14 and Buhler 1-17. The Bullpups split with Salina South on Wednesday, which is encouraging since the Cougars have been a traditional 5A power though they’re just 10-10 this season.

The times I’ve watched the Bullpups, it’s all about defense. When their defense plays well, they stay in games. Too often, though, they have given teams as many as six outs in an inning by not catching the ball or overthrowing it.

The Bullpups are kind of like the Royals. It was just 3 years ago they were one victory away from 4A D-I supremacy, losing to Augusta in the state finals. This year’s free fall wasn’t expected, as the team had a good number of starters back.

But on Tuesday, MHS is — in its mind — 0-0 as the regional is a second season. If it plays defense, it can score enough runs to win as lately it’s been hitting the ball hard. Scoring 23 runs in two games against Salina South was promising.

If the Bullpups can win two games on Tuesday, this would probably be one of the most unlikely MHS teams ever to make a state competition.

• COLON RELEASED BY ROYALS — It seems like Christian Colon’s career with the Kansas City Royals has always hung like a thread.

Colon was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2010 draft. It was thought at the time he was drafted more for his signability as he wasn’t expected to command outlandish money.

When you’re a No. 4 overall pick, the team expects a big return on its investment. Colon finally arrived to the parent club in 2014, when he played 21 games and hit .333.

But he never really got a chance. He played 43 games in 2015, capped by his memorable hit in Game 5 of the World Series that clinched the championship. But he was given few opportunities last year, batting just 161 times. This year he played seven games before the Royals had finally decided they needed pitchers and had no other options.

Colon never got to play every day and nobody really knows what he can due over the long haul. Maybe there's a team out there that will give him a chance to start, but he's been pegged as a backup and I don't see that changing.

My feeling is the Royals knew early on they had badly overreached on Colon, but they didn’t want to admit to the mistake. While he was a good teammate and always well prepared to play, he simply didn’t have enough pop in his bat to justify a spot on the roster. He wound up playing just 125 games in his career with a homer and 25 RBIs. That’s not much for somebody picked that high.

Now I wonder just how long the Royals will keep Bubba Starling in the organization. He’s another player picked very high who has bombed miserably. I always thought he should have stayed with football because he was an incredible talent, as McPherson High fans saw that memorable night when his Gardner-Edgerton team outlasted the Bullpups 49-42 in what many still call the greatest game ever played at McPherson Stadium.

• COFFEYVILLE CLASSIC ENDING — I was sad to see today that the Harold Thomas Interstate Basketball Classic in Coffeyville is ending.

This was one of the older boys basketball tournaments in Kansas, starting in 1973. I was a student at nearby Independence High that year and I covered this tournament as a cub reporter for the Independence paper in 1976 and 1977. It drew teams from Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri and some big-name schools. For many years it was regarded as one of the top midseason tournaments in Kansas.

According to a story I read, declining ticket sales, reduced business sponsorship and difficulties in finding teams for the eight-team field played a role in its demise. The tournament was named for Harold Thomas, the former Coffeyville basketball coach who was a Southeast Kansas legend as well as one of the great gentlemen in the profession.

I’m just glad the McPherson Invitational is going strong and has been since 1965.