HAYS — McPherson’s Under-17s were in “the zone” at the zone.
Post 24 continued its high-level play Thursday night with an 11-3 victory over Hays in the championship game of the Zone 4 Tournament, propelling it into next week’s Class A state event in Leavenworth.
It's the team's first trip to state since 2010.
McPherson will enter the tournament white-hot with 17 wins in its last 18 games for an overall record of 22-6.
Coach Tony Schmidt said the tough early season schedule, which resulted in the 5-5 start, was by design.
“It was a block-by-block building process,” said Schmidt, whose team is awaiting word for its first-game opponent. “It feels good. I think winning the Alma tournament and winning our last four of the Bob Hooper Classic really helped.”
Hays jolted McPherson starter Micah McCulley with three runs in the top of the first inning, but after that he was virtually faultless. He finished with 11 strikeouts and hung nothing but zeroes after the first-inning hiccup.
“He pitched really well,” Schmidt said, noting he bought into the pitching plan going into the game.
Post 24 shrugged off Hays’ three-run first by doubling that output in the bottom of the inning, batting around to score six runs. Cody Starkel had two of the hits, one of them a double, and went on to finish with three hits for the night.
McCulley and Jacob Loecker had RBI doubles in the opening frame. Loecker finished with three RBIs as McPherson continued its season-long trend of frenzied hitting from top to bottom. Post 24 added two runs in both the fourth and sixth innings, but for all intents and purposes the game was over after the first.
Kolby Reed drove in two runs to aid the McPherson cause.
“We hit the ball pretty well, we bunt pretty well and run the bases pretty well,” Schmidt said. “Hays tried to take away the bunt in the first inning or so.”
The tournament is not seeded as McPherson’s Zone 4 will play the winner of Zone 3 in the first round.
Schmidt said this has been a culmination of a long process as it all started with the McPherson Baseball Association when this group was youngsters. He is hoping the success of this year’s team will encourage future players to see the benefits of what the MBA has to offer and stick with summer baseball all the way through.
McPherson (11) — Starkel 4-1-3-0, Schmidt 3-2-0-0, McDaniel 2-3-1-1, Burney 3-1-0-0, Loecker 3-1-2-3, Olson 1-0-0-1, Hoover 2-0-1-0, McCulley 3-2-1-1, Reed 1-1-1-2, Reifschneider 2-0-1-1.