LEAVENWORTH — McPherson American Legion baseball coach Tony Schmidt has entrusted Micah McCulley with the ball in today’s winner-take-all championship game of the Kansas American Legion State Tournament.
McPherson and Andover are meeting for a second straight game and third overall in the tournament at 12:30 p.m.
The teams played the very first game of the five-day event on Wednesday, with Andover rallying for an 8-3 victory after McPherson had protected a 3-1 lead through five innings. Post 24 returned the favor Saturday afternoon with a 6-4 decision to force the second championship game of the double-elimination tournament.
Post 24, 27-7 with 22 wins in its last 24 games, has ripped off five straight triumphs to put itself in position to win the state title.
“These kids have showed a lot of character. They knew they could do it,” Schmidt said. “I’ve been really proud of them.”
McCulley started the second game of the tournament on Thursday against Dodge City, but was pulled after just two innings because McPherson mounted a huge lead and Schmidt wanted to save some of his innings. He then worked 5 1/3 innings on Friday in the 4-2 victory over Salina.
Schmidt has masterfully handled his pitching staff. He should have ample arms available in what amounts to pitching by committee for both teams. McPherson is playing its seventh game of the tournament and Andover its fifth.
Post 24 has relied on “small ball.” In the 14-8 win over Doniphan County on Saturday, all 13 hits were singles. Marcus McDaniel, Brodie Burney and Jacob Loecker were all immense, combining for 10 hits and 10 RBIs. Nine of the 11 hits against Andover were singles, with Kolby Reed legging out a triple and Cody Starkel stroking a double.
Schmidt said the key is for McPherson to play its style. Since the team doesn’t have the big mashers in the lineup, bunting and putting pressure on opposing defenses has been essential.
“Everybody has been doing their job. That’s what we’re going to need (in the championship game),” Schmidt said.
Vs. Doniphan County
Mac (14) — Starkel 3-3-0-0, Schmidt 1-4-0-0, McDaniel 4-4-4-2, Burney 4-1-3-4, Loecker 4-0-3-4, Hoover 4-0-2-0, McCulley 3-0-1-1, Reed 3-1-0-0, Reifschneider 2-1-0-0, Olson 1-0-0-0.
Mac (6) — Starkel 4-0-2-1, Schmidt 2-1-1-0, McDaniel 3-2-2-0, Burney 2-0-1-1, Loecker 1-1-1-0, Hoover 3-0-2-2, McCulley 3-0-1-1, Reed 3-1-1-0, Reifschneider 3-0-0-0.