• GERSTNER INVOLVED WITH LEGION SUCCESS — One of the many positives to come out of the state championship run of the McPherson American Legion baseball team this past week was that new McPherson High coach Heath Gerstner was involved with the process as an adviser.
Gerstner will be taking over the Bullpup program in the spring after a successful stint at Junction City, including an appearance in the Class 6A State Tournament. Even though he was in the process of moving to McPherson, Gerstner took the time to attend games over the last two months, which gave him ample time to evaluate the talent he’ll be working with next year.
Gerstner certainly saw that his new team will rely on pitching and an offense that puts pressure on the opponents with bunting and stealing. Reportedly, that’s just the kind of style he likes to play.
To me, it says a lot about Gerstner. He inherits a situation that quite honestly last year was a mess. McPherson High hired a coach who wound up resigning after two games due to philosophical differences and it hung over the team like a black cloud all season.
Now with a Legion championship under its belt, the high school team will start anew with a coach who hopes to take the program to rarefied heights.
• RUXLOW PITCHES IN NBC TOURNEY — Alex Ruxlow, the ace of the McPherson High baseball pitching staff both his junior and senior seasons, saw action on the mound in the 80th annual NBC Tournament currently under way in Wichita at Lawrence-DuMont Stadium.
The big lefty, who played this summer for the Wichita Sluggers, got into two games as a reliever. The Sluggers basically consisted of players who just graduated from high school this past spring.
He pitched 1/3 of an inning in a 7-1 loss to the San Diego Force, a team that has players in the 27-age range. He took the loss in relief in the elimination game against Boulder, Colo., an 8-5 decision. Other than allowing a run, he pitched well in his 2 2/3 innings, including a pickoff.
Ruxlow finished his season with a sparkling 7-2 record.
The Sluggers had the most inexperience of any team in the field, but playing this caliber of competition in this setting should help those players next year.
Among Ruxlow’s teammates were Andale pitcher Tyler Jones, Bishop Carroll catcher Taylor Sangorski and Derby outfielder Travis Young, all of whom will be playing this upcoming season at Wichita State. Ruxlow was the only player on the regular-season roster not from the Wichita area.
Ruxlow threw 55 innings for the Bullpups this past spring, compiling a 4-4 record and earning three saves as he both started and relieved. He struck out 45, walked 19 and compiled a 2.94 ERA.
Ruxlow originally committed to McPherson College, but instead will pitch at Hutchinson Junior College.
• LARSON ON WINNING TEAM — McPherson High All-State offensive lineman Garrett Larson figures to win a lot of games at Carnie Smith Stadium during his Pittsburg State football career as the Gorillas are a perennial national power.
Larson got a head start on success this past Saturday, as he started at left tackle for the winning West team in the 41st annual Kansas Shrine Bowl Football Game.
The West took a while to get started, but dominated the second half for a 21-6 victory. Garden City quarterback Greyson Tempel, who will be Larson's teammate at PSU this fall, led the second-half charge as the West clearly was the better team. Tempel threw for 183 yards and two scores — both to Salina South grad Zach Nachbar — and also ran for 64 yards on 14 carries. Unlike most Shrine Bowls, Tempel was the quarterback nearly the entire game. Normally two quarterbacks divide the time.
Larson was the latest in a long line of Bullpups chosen for the game, following Collin French (2013), Jordan Hart (2012), Christian Ulsaker (2011), Joel Piper (2010), Zach Peterson (2009) and Tanner Hawkinson (2008, but did not play as he had reported at KU).
• WRENCH TO BUTLER — Running back Traevohn Wrench, who ran wild against McPherson High as a sophomore while playing for Gardner-Edgerton and was widely considered the Kansas Jayhawks’ No. 1 football recruit, failed to qualify academically and will instead play for junior college kingpin Butler County in El Dorado.
Wrench had a tremendous game in the Trail Blazers’ 41-21 victory over MHS in 2011, a year after Bubba Starling put on one of the greatest individual performances ever witnessed at McPherson Stadium in G-E’s 49-42 victory, still the greatest high school football game I have ever covered.
That Wrench failed to qualify did not come as any surprise. When I chatted with former MHS girls basketball coach Scott Schaefer about him during January’s Mid America Classic (Schaefer was coaching Gardner-Edgerton before stepping down after the season), he told me Marvin Diener and his coaching staff has serious doubts about Wrench qualifying. That right there tells me that academics could be a problem for him in the future, which means he could be at Butler for two years. If he becomes a Juco All-American, chances are he may try to play for somebody more elite than KU.