High drama in baseball regional

By Steve Sell
May 17, 2018

When McPherson High’s baseball team loaded the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the seventh inning on Wednesday against arch-rival Buhler in the Class 4A Division I regional finals — and trailing 7-5 — I was fully expecting another "McPherson Miracle."

Given how the year has played out between the schools, it would have been a fitting end for the Bullpups to plate three runs and force Buhler to painfully watch yet another wild MHS postgame celebration.

As the potential rally was in its infant stages, I was remembering “Jade,” the amazing trick play the Bullpups pulled off in the football playoffs to stun the Crusaders in overtime and how crushed the Buhler players were as they were scattered across the field in various stages of despair.

Then I was remembering the boys basketball sub-state championship game, whether Buhler could end its long losing streak against the Bullpups by upsetting them on their home court, but MHS would have none of that even though the Crusaders had a lot of talent.

Make no mistake, the Bullpups have enjoyed success against the Crusaders for the most part this year, more than anytime I can remember. Buhler, which has a great sports program, has brought out the best in MHS.

Getting back to the rally, the Bullpups used a walk, single and another walk to load the bases against Buhler closer Logan Sweet. Jake Brown was then brought in and the Bullpups had clutch RBI man Gabe Hoover at the plate.

Brown got the call on a borderline third strike for the first out. Emboldened, Brown then retired Honestee Whittker and Jakob Feil to end the game and it was the Crusaders who were dancing around the mound and the Bullpups with their heads in their hands knowing just how close they had come to completing their dream of making state.

I believe Buhler has a team built for a deep state run. Its strength is pitching as it has five capable hurlers. Class 4A Division I is void of dominating teams, so the Crusaders have as good of a chance to win it as anybody.

That MHS made it this far was yet another “McPherson Miracle” in what I have called the “Year of the Bullpups.” 

Coach Heath Gerstner had watched back-to-back outstanding senior classes depart, many of the players who had sparked the team to a state championship game in 2015. When assessing the team before the season, there was little pitching experience, a new catcher had to be broken in and I really wondered how this team was going to score runs.

But the retooling virtually happened overnight. Dylan Werries, a freshman starter on the 2015 team, had one of the all-time best offensive seasons in Bullpup history and Gerstner handled him judiciously on the mound, mostly working in relief. He certainly deserved better against Buhler, as the defense sprang a few leaks and most of the Crusader runs were gifts.

Werries, Gunner Reiss, Zane Myers, Hoover and Whittker provided a consistent Top 5 in the order. Feil was a revelation both offensively and on the mound. Wyatt Seidl rose up with some timely hits, including two doubles in the regional opener on Wednesday, and poised sophomore Spencer Whitfield is going to earn league honors at catcher in the future and handled a tough position with aplomb. Chandler Wiard was a solid pitcher and provided great range in center field. He’s going to be another team leader next year.

Trey Hanken pitched, played first and DH'd, while Shane Starkel and Tyler Scott made important varsity contributions during the year. Tanner Cheatham moved up after the JV season to start in left field in both regional games, so Gerstner obviously had faith in his defensive abilities.

And talking about next year, I'll refrain from saying it's going to be a rebuilding year. While a huge senior class departs, the Bullpups have shown they can rebuild on the fly.