Tony Schmidt has no worries about the physical aspect of his McPherson American Legion Under-17 baseball team heading into the Class A State Tournament that begins Wednesday in Leavenworth.
What Schmidt believes could determine the team’s championship aspirations lies right between the ears.
“Physically, we’ve got a team capable of winning a state championship,” said Schmidt, whose team takes a glistening 22-6 record into Wednesday’s 1 p.m. opener against Andover. “We can hit, we can bunt, we can run. It’s going to be mentally. Do we believe we have the team to win the state championship?”
Schmidt will get a good read on his team in the tournament opener. McPherson and Andover were scheduled to play twice this season, only to see Mother Nature interrupt the proceedings both times.
“They’re always a pretty decent team,” Schmidt said. “Every year they’re pretty good.”
Schmidt has tabbed Marcus McDaniel as his first-game pitcher. McDaniel and Caleb Schmidt were neck-and-neck for the opportunity, but Tony Schmidt said that his team is much better defensively when McDaniel is on the mound. “And he (McDaniel) is also a kid I don’t have to worry about being ready mentally,” Schmidt said. “He’ll be focused.”
That would leave Caleb Schmidt to toil in Game 2. McPherson will play either the Salina Eagles or Dodge City — 6 p.m. Thursday with a win or 10 a.m. Thursday with a loss.
Micah McCulley, Jack Reifschneider and Cody Starkel also are part of a deep McPherson pitching staff. Starkel most likely would work in relief, because Schmidt doesn’t want to take away from his defense. Starkel, who has been a consistent offensive force throughout the season, will be one of the best defensive catchers in the tournament.
Since starting 5-5, McPherson has reeled off 17 wins in 18 games, many of them in dominating fashion. But the competition will be better this week and Post 24 will have to be focused from start to finish. The days of playing the cookies on the schedule has halted.
New McPherson High baseball coach Heath Gerstner has helped Schmidt in preparation. He is acquainted with teams like Manhattan and Paola and is expected to be on hand for the tournament.
Schmidt said his team is taking a no-nonsense approach to the week. “We know what we’re going up there for and that’s to play baseball,” he said. “Everything else is secondary.”
Here is Wednesday’s opening-round schedule:
1:00 — McPherson vs. Andover
3:30 — Salina Eagles vs. Dodge City
6:00 — Manhattan vs. Doniphan City
8:30 — Paola vs. Geiger Ready Mix