McPherson Post 24 coach Tony Schmidt uses the word “comfortable” often when discussing the upcoming Class AAA American Legion State Baseball Tournament.
One reason being, Post 24 should feel comfortable in its surroundings since the tournament begins Wednesday on its home field, Grant Complex.
McPherson plays the fourth and final first-round game as it’s matched against Emporia, which should start somewhere near 7:30 p.m.
“We’re comfortable playing them,” said Schmidt, whose team is 3-1 against Emporia this summer. “We know what to expect.”
In those four games with Emporia, Post 24 piled up a 36-13 advantage, including an 18-run and 14-run game.
Schmidt, who guided this team to the Class A state title last year, has tabbed Jack Reifschneider as his opening-game starter. Reifschneider is 5-1 on the season with a 1.87 ERA.
“Right now Jack is our best pitcher,” Schmidt said. “I have a lot of confidence in him.”
Last year, Post 24 lost its opening-round game at state, but roared back through the loser’s bracket to win the title, the first time in 33 years a team had accomplished that feat.
A strength of the team is its pitching depth, which enabled it to survive that gauntlet last year.
“We have six guys who can come in and throw strikes,” Schmidt said. “Hopefully we can do it (win the title) a different way this year. We’d like to stay in the winners bracket.”
If McPherson triumphs in its opener, it plays the winner of Great Bend and Osklaoosa, who play at 5 p.m. Wednesday. In earlier games, Wichita takes on Newton at 11 a.m., followed by Ottawa against Garden City at 1:30.
“We saw Great Bend at our tournament,” Schmidt said. “I don’t know anything about Oskaloosa. I still think Newton is a very good team. We have to prove we can beat them.”
Schmidt said either Marcus McDaniel (2-3, 4.11 ERA) or Caleb Schmidt (3-0, 1.54) would throw in Game 2. “We’ll watch some of that game (Great Bend-Oskaloosa) and figure out what we want to do,” he said.
Jacob Loecker, Cody Starkel and Griffin Myers all can throw if needed as there’s probably not a team in the tournament with McPherson’s pitching strength.
Of course, Post 24 will need some offense to go along with that pitching. Loecker leads the way at .440, while Starkel (.405), McDaniel (.400), Schmidt (.393), Kolby Reed (.369) and Casen Hoover (.338) have impressive marks. Starkel, Schmidt and McDaniel are at the top of the order, with Loecker and Hoover taking advantage of them getting on base with 25 and 22 RBIs, respectively.
Here is Wednesday’s schedule:
11:00 — Wichita vs. Newton
1:30 — Ottawa vs. Garden City
5:00 — Great Bend vs. Oskaloosa
7:30 — Emporia vs. McPherson