BUHLER — McPherson High first-year baseball coach Heath Gerstner learned a lot about his team’s character on Monday against arch-rival Buhler.
After the Bullpups had their hearts cut out in Game 1 with a numbing 8-7 loss in eight innings, they bounced back with one of their best efforts of the year in a 4-0 victory to hand Buhler only its second loss of the year.
By winning the second game, the Bullpups exceeded last year’s victory total as they are now 8-4 with eight games still left to play.
“Following a loss in the bottom of the eighth (in Game 1), you worry about your team and how they will respond,” Gerstner said. “The dugout environment was really one of shock and being asked to come be ready to play again in 10 to 15 minutes is very tough, but I was glad we put two runs on the board in the top of the first.”
That’s all that ace pitcher Caleb Schmidt needed as he took care of the rest.
“The story of the night was Caleb Schmidt's ability to keep their hitters off balance,” Gerstner said. “He came back on short rest and just pitched his butt off and put up 0 after 0 on the scoreboard. He is really beginning to pitch well, throwing three pitches for strikes and trusts his defense to make plays behind him.”
The Bullpups added to their 2-0 first-inning lead by scoring two more runs in the fourth to give Schmidt some insurance. He wound up going six innings, allowing just three hits and walking only two while throwing just 77 pitches. Marcus McDaniel finished up.
Cody Starkel had two hits, one of them a double. Jacob Loecker added two singles.
The first game was what a true rivalry is all about. Buhler busted out to a 4-0 lead, but MHS tied it with four in the fifth. After Buhler took a 5-4 lead in the fifth, MHS vaulted back ahead 6-5 in the top of the sixth. Again the Crusaders responded with two runs for a 7-6 lead, but MHS tallied in the top of the seventh before Buhler won it in the eighth.
MHS didn’t help its cause with five errors, a rare off game in the field. The Bullpups rapped out 11 hits, including three by Starkel, and two by Loecker and Casen Hoover.
McDaniel took the loss after he had followed Jack Reifschneider and Loecker to the mound. Only five of the Buhler runs were earned.
“I’m really proud of our kids for battling back from a 4-0 deficit and taking the lead late in the game,” Gerstner said. “I thought Jacob Loecker gave us some nice quality innings on the mound and the ability to bunt allowed us to create a big inning.”
The Bullpups have the rest of the week off as they have gone at a brisk pace and are looking forward to the rest.
“We’re excited for the off day on Thursday as we have yet to have an off day and been quite a marathon for a couple weeks here,” Gerstner said.
MHS plays Monday at state-ranked Andale and Thursday in AVCTL action at El Dorado. MHS is 3-3 in league games.
The Bullpup JVs recorded a pair of wins.
MHS doubled up the Crusaders 8-4 in the opener as Trey Hanken drove in two runs. Seven different Bullpups had one hit each, with Hanken’s double the only extra-base knock. Alex Kalkhorst continued his solid pitching to earn the win.
Big Sam Brossard pitched a five-inning no-hitter in the second game for a 3-1 victory. Errors led to the only Buhler run.
Brossard mowed down the Crusaders with 10 strikeouts. The Bullpups are now 8-4.
MHS (7) — Starkel 5-0-3-1, Schmidt 4-1-1-0, McDaniel 3-0-0-0, Hoover 5-1-2-1, Myers 4-0-1-1, McCulley 2-1-1-1, Loecker 3-0-2-0, Arriola 3-0-0-0, Saverino 1-2-0-0, Reed 3-2-1-0.
MHS (4) — Starkel 4-0-2-0, Schmidt 4-0-0-0, McDaniel 3-1-1-1, Hoover 3-0-0-0, Myers 3-0-1-0, McCulley 3-0-0-0, Saverino 3-0-1-0, Loecker 3-1-2-0, Reed 2-1-1-0, Arriola 0-1-0-0