SALINA — There will be no miracle run for McPherson’s Junior American Legion baseball team this time.
Post 24, which lost its first game of the Class A State Tournament last year before storming back through the losers bracket to capture the championship, was eliminated this morning by Doniphan County, 8-0.
Doniphan County, which lost 9-2 to Post 24 back in Tuesday’s first round, has a chance to duplicate McPherson’s feat from last year if it can defeat Arkansas City this afternoon in the championship game, which would force an extra game at 10 a.m. Saturday.
The importance of staying in the championship bracket became crystal clear early today. Post 24 simply didn’t have the pitching depth to make a three-game run in the losers bracket as coach Heath Gerstner had to start closer Trey Hanken, then quickly switched to Jeffrey Reed, who had thrown but a scant few innings the entire year.
“Without a doubt pitching depth was not a strength of this team,” Gerstner said. “It wasn’t an asset like last summer. Hopefully we can develop a few more guys for the future.”
Gerstner had hoped to throw Sam Brossard, who had shared ace duties with Dylan Werries. But a bad back scrapped that idea, though Brossard did try to bat as the DH, only to have to come out of the game after one appearance.
Still, a third-place finish was quite a feat for this team, considering not one player was a member of last year’s state title team.
“These kids bought into our process and did a lot of good things,” Gerstner said. “They had a good spring, too, as they were somewhat overlooked because of the success of our older guys. I thought a lot of them came out there this summer and took a big step ahead.”
Doniphan County took advantage of some sloppy early play by Post 24 to build up a 7-0 lead after three innings, then pushed across a run in the fourth that gave it the rule-rule margin it needed after McPherson went quietly in the fifth.
Post 24 did average a hit an inning, as five different players had singles. Doniphan County actually had only seven hits, but ran like frightened deer on the basepaths with six stolen bases.
Wyatt Huss, who threw 130 pitches against McPherson in the first meeting between the teams and also threw two innings on Thursday, amazingly threw another 59 pitches to run his count to over 200 in four days. He did not walk a batter and Post 55 became the first team in the tournament to go errorless in a game.
McPherson finished with a 22-13-1 record.
McPherson (0) — Reed 2-0-0-0, Werries 3-0-1-0, Kalkhorst 2-0-1-0, Scott 0-0-0-0, Brossard 1-0-0-0, Myers 2-0-1-0, Reitsma 0-0-0-0, Hanken 0-0-0-0, Hunt 2-0-1-0, Leaf 2-0-0-0, Wheat 2-0-0-0, Reiss 2-0-1-0, Kerr 1-0-0-0.