Heath Gerstner couldn’t have been happier with the way the third annual Bob Hooper Summer Showcase Baseball Tournament played out over the weekend.
The McPherson High baseball coach, who on Sunday was named The Hutchinson News’ Area Coach of the Year after leading the Bullpups to a second-place state finish, shepherded the 16-team tournament that featured quality baseball from the opening games on Friday to the championship game on Sunday that was captured by the Kansas Indians of Fort Scott, who had been an upset victim in the first round of the Class 4A Division I State Tournament that MHS wound up taking second place in.
Gerstner used his vast contacts to compile a 16-team field, including several teams with Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League ties.
“I was very excited about it, I had a lot of compliments from a lot of our league teams and teams from all over Kansas,” Gerstner said. “A lot of people were already asking about next year. Overall there were some great coaches and great players.”
The tournament began on Friday with all 16 teams getting their feet wet in the eight games, half of which were decided by just one run. All teams played two games on Saturday, with Light Capital Diamond being used along with Grant Complex. Teams then took part in a single-game tournament on Saturday, with the four pool winners matched in the semifinals and the winners of those games playing for the championship.
“We just wanted good baseball,” Gerstner said. “There are some teams that were younger, you could see that at times. For the most part there were really good teams with some players going on to play college ball. That’s what we want in McPherson.”
Gerstner, who coaches the McPherson Junior team as Tony Schmidt guides the Seniors along with Scott Graham, didn’t hesitate in putting Post 24 against some quality teams. It opened on Friday with the eventual champion Fort Scott, letting a late 3-2 lead get away in a 4-3 loss. After two impressive wins on Saturday against Concordia and the Kansas Green Cannons, McPherson lost a 7-0 verdict on Sunday to old rival Newton, which scored four runs in the final two innings to pull away. McPherson and Newton used to be storied rivals, but the schools have taken different scheduling paths in recent years.
Post 24, which won the Class A state championship last year before moving up to Class AAA this summer, is now 9-8 on the season. It’s apparent the team is geared more for faster pitching, as many of its losses have come to teams who throw pitchers who rely on off-speed offerings. Schmidt said the team is going to have learn to adjust before it can really take off and make a late-season run.
Post 24 has about three weeks left before postseason play. A highlight is that McPherson already is assured of being in the state tournament since it will serve as host July 29 through Aug. 1.