McPherson High’s spring sports season yielded an embarrassment of riches.
Except for Topeka Hayden, whose baseball and girls soccer teams defeated MHS in state championship games twice in a recent three-day span, no other school in Class 4A Division I, or maybe in any class, could match what Bullpup teams achieved.
The MHS boys tennis team of coach Tyler Brown captured the second state championship in school history. The Bullpups had entered state as the No. 2-ranked team to Independence, but thanks to county brethren Smoky Valley’s upset of the No. 1-ranked Bulldog doubles team, the door opened and MHS charged through.
MHS flexed its muscles by finishing 1-2 in doubles — champions Gallagher Martin and Nolan Schrader defeated teammates Luke Williams and Kento Aizawa in the finals — while Andrew Snell and Kaden Stewart were fourth and ninth, respectively, in singles. Schrader, Snell and Stewart were all freshmen and Aizawa was a junior, which means the Bullpups’ banner they will hoist in December could have some company.
While the Bullpups were expected to be in the championship hunt, the second-place state finishes by the MHS baseball and girls soccer teams certainly were not.
The baseball team had suffered through an ignominious 2014 season and had another new head coach in Heath Gerstner. But the team apparently fed off its American Legion Class A state championship over the summer, as it learned how to win even though it didn’t have an offensive juggernaut. Instead it relied on pitching, defense and daring on the basepaths and squeezed out everything it could in its season as Topeka Hayden was in a class by itself.
The girls soccer team, like the baseball team, did nothing in 2014 to distinguish itself with an unassuming 8-9-1 record. Below the surface though, that team planted the seeds for this season and with a bumper crop of freshmen coming aboard, it all came together. The Bullpups struggled at times during the season to score, but the defense kept them in every game. Only against Class 6A power Derby did the Bullpups break and that was more of a 20-minute flood of goals when they were trying to make something happen and left themselves exposed defensively.
Coach Chris Adrian will have every single player back next year and he’s proven if he has freshmen who are ready to contribute, he’ll toss them in the fire.
One of the feel-good stories of the year was the girls swimming team of first-year coach Abby Bradstreet. She had big shoes to fill after the departure of longtime coach Bonnie Sue Fisher, but she not only kept the program afloat, she provided such a positive, upbeat atmosphere. The Bullpups maximized their potential and qualified for more than half of the events at state, where they came away with some hardware. If Bradstreet could ever get the numbers up to those of the quality teams, MHS could make a run teamwise. It scores a lot of points per swimmer, it just doesn’t have the depth in the program.
Numbers aren’t a problem with the track team, which has had more participants in the last two years than anytime in school history.
Jace Pavlovich’s team would have been a state contender had it not been in such a powerful regional. The Bullpups had several team members not qualify, but had they been in any of the other regionals they would have easily advanced. Some of the fifth- and sixth-place marks at Holcomb would have translated into gold elsewhere, as once again the power shift slants decidedly to Central and Western Kansas.
Pavlovich had very few seniors who made state, so like the other sports the track and field team will be back in force next year.
The MHS golf team of coach Kurt Kinnamon was down in numbers. However, Jacob Lackey was the Division III champion as a sophomore and was one forgettable hole away from making state. His teammates CJ Steiner and Kaden Warren did advance to play on the big stage at Turkey Creek and the good news is all three will be back, as will the rest of the team since there were no seniors.
Perhaps the only disappointment of the spring was girls softball, which was mentioned in the preseason state tournament championship talk. In fact, it may have been a victim of the Mid Kansas Sports Magazine cover jinx. While it still finished with a winning record, 12-10, so much more was expected. The final loss of the season was a one-run decision to Andale-Garden Plain, which wound up playing for the state championship.
The Bullpups had nearly their entire team back after finishing second in the state to Augusta last year. Optimism was high early when they split with the Orioles (who by the way won the state title again) to open the season, but for whatever reason the team could never get on any kind of a roll. Granted, the schedule was strong, but it was thought MHS had an offense that could simply outscore teams.
This is one of the few teams that takes a graduation hit, as longtime veterans Hannah Marshall, Madison Hoffman, Jasmine Wann and Stephanie Farney — all of whom earned league honors — move on. Coach Danica Fitzmorris will reload around the wondrous talents of shortstop Chelsey Kerr, who should be a first-team All-Stater next year. If the pitching can improve, the Bullpups should still be mentioned among the Top 10 teams.
So the spring is a wrap. Our athletes and teams thrilled us from start to finish to compile one of the most productive seasons in Kansas. And there's a good chance we might be doing all this again next year.