Locked and loaded.
McPherson’s Under-17 American Legion baseball team will enter next week’s zone tournament at Hays with a boatload of momentum after completing regular-season play here Wednesday with a sweep of the Salina Hawks, one of the teams that stands in its path of advancing to state.
Post 24 swamped the Hawks 11-1 and 10-2 in abbreviated, run-rule games at Grant Complex.
“We’ll see them at zone. It was nice seeing them (prior to next week),” said McPherson coach Tony Schmidt, whose squad has racked up a 19-6 record with 14 wins in the last 15 attempts, the only hiccup coming against the Newton Senior Legion. “We’ve seen (and swept) Great Bend. The only team we haven’t seen is Hays. I think these guys (Salina) split with Hays. I think Great Bend split with Hays, so I like our chances.”
The Under-17s followed the script of their recent victories — solid pitching and timely hitting, not to mention doing all the little things that add up to a convincing decision.
McPherson stated its presence with authority by scoring six runs in the first inning of the opener, then adding three in the second. It closed the game out with two in the fourth for the snappy run-rule rout.
McPherson rattled around eight singles, two apiece by the smoking-hot Cody Starkel and Caleb Schmidt. Griffin Myers was efficient, permitting just one hit and walking only one as he unfurled an economic 53 offerings.
The second game was a model of consistency, as Post 24 scored in every inning to put the Hawks away in five, with Starkel’s walk-off triple sending the happy crowd home early.
Starkel also bedazzled the Hawks with his power arm, fanning eight and permitting just three singles. His recent mound evolution makes an already deep Post 24 pitching staff that much more chockfull of depth.
“He did that for us this weekend, too,” said Schmidt, who’s basically kept Starkel behind the plate but now he could prove to be invaluable in the postseason. “He can pitch. He just hasn’t had the opportunity. He just throws it hard. He’s worked on changing speeds, too. He tried that a few times tonight.”
Starkel and Schmidt collected two hits apiece and Jacob Loecker cracked a double.
Schmidt can’t wait for next week. He’s giving the team a couple of nights off as it has had a succession of games in the last two weeks, but he expects it to have the same sharp edge on Tuesday when it attempts to complete the road to state.
“I’ve got every expectation of winning zone, I really do,” he said, noting the double-elimination format favors his team because of its pitching resources.
“We’ve got eight guys who can throw,” he said.
However, the team won’t have Myers, who will be too old for the division McPherson competes in.
“Griffin Myers had a good year,” Schmidt said. “He does so many little things right all the time. He very seldom makes a mistake. We’ll miss him, he’s a good kid.”
The team hopes to have back Brodie Burney, who has been limited because of a pulled hamstring. He’s a big bat in the middle of the order and his thunder is missed.
McPherson (11) — Starkel 4-1-2-2, Myers 1-2-0-0, McDaniel 1-2-1-1, McCulley 2-1-1-0, Eilts 0-0-0-0, Schmidt 2-2-2-2, Loecker 2-1-1-1, Reifschneider 2-1-0-2, Olson 2-1-1-1, Sitts 2-0-0-0.
McPherson (10) — Myers 4-1-1-0, Schmidt 2-2-2-2, Starkel 2-2-2-1, McDaniel 1-3-0-0, Loecker 2-0-1-2, Reifschneider 1-1-0-0, Olson 2-0-1-0, Sitts 3-0-0-0, Eilts 1-1-0-0, Burney 1-0-0-0.