SALINA — Alex Kalkhorst couldn’t wait for the chance to redeem himself.
Kalkhorst’s throwing error in the bottom of the sixth inning had helped Doniphan County tie his McPherson Junior American Legion team at 2-all in the opening round of the Class A State Tournament at Dean Evans Stadium.
He didn’t have to wait long. With the bases loaded and one out in the seventh inning, Kalkhorst delivered a bases-clearing double, which kick-started a seven-run eruption as McPherson moved on to Wednesday’s winner’s bracket semifinals with a 9-2 victory.
“As a three-hole (No. 3 in the batting order) you always want to find yourself up with the bases loaded and a 3-1 count,” McPherson coach Heath Gerstner said of his hard-hitting catcher. “There’s no doubt in my mind I want him swinging there. Bases loaded, we want our guys to be aggressive. That was a good count for him to hit and he hit it hard.”
McPherson, the defending state champion but with an entirely new team, was able to pile on four more runs to turn what had been a six-inning nailbiter into a breather as well as make a winner of pitcher Dylan Werries, who scattered six hits and allowed only one earned run, while walking two and fanning six.
Post 24, 21-11-1 on the season, will play at 6 p.m. Wednesday against the winner of Paola and Chanute.
It was a rather bizarre game for McPherson, which overcame six errors while five runners were erased on basepath misadventures. But it never got down on itself and persevered through all the adversity.
Doniphan County, whose county seat is Troy, pushed across a run in the fifth inning to break a scoreless tie. McPherson wasted numerous opportunities through five innings, leaving six runners on, not to mention losing potential tallies due to pickoffs and runners being thrown out.
Finally in the sixth, McPherson’s Paxton Leaf came up to pinch hit with two out and two on. He delivered a ringing single to put McPherson ahead 2-1.
“That was a situation I was kind of looking for because Paxton has been one of our best fastball hitters all summer,” Gerstner said. “I knew he was going to get a fastball in that situation. He didn’t have an at-bat last week because he had been gone. He was cold off the bench, so it’s a credit to him.”
But McPherson gave it right back with a messy four-error inning that could have been worse, but Werries worked his way through defensive collapse.
Post 24 peppered Doniphan starter Wyatt Huss for 11 hits, including two each by Kalkhorst, Jeffrey Reed, Tyler Wheat and Koby Kerr, who actually had both of his in the seventh inning as he led off with a single and later accounted for the fifth and final hit of the frame.
McPherson will come back with Sam Brossard as its pitcher on Wednesday. He missed Tuesday’s game because of a funeral and has been arguably the team’s top pitcher this year.
McPherson (9) — Reed 4-1-2-1, Myers 3-1-1-1, Werries 4-1-0-0, Kalkhorst 4-0-2-3, Leaf 1-1-1-2, Scott 0-1-0-0, Hanken 3-1-0-0, Reiss 3-2-1-0, Wheat 2-1-2-0, Hunt 2-0-0-0, Kerr 3-0-2-1, Reistma 0-0-0-0.