And now it’s winner take all.
Nine-lives Ottawa broke a 4-all tie with McPherson by scoring four runs in the sixth inning and then tacked on five more in the seventh for a 13-5 victory Saturday afternoon in the first championship game of the Class AAA American Legion State Baseball Tournament at Grant Complex.
The teams now play the rubber match at 11 a.m. Sunday, with the winner carting home the championship trophy.
Post 24 and the Arrows are 1-1 in the last 24 hours, as McPherson had prevailed 7-5 on Friday in the finals of the winners bracket.
Ottawa appeared to be drawing its last breath earlier today as it trailed Wichita 4-0 in the sixth inning, but stunned the Aviators with three runs and then pushed across two in the seventh for a pulsating 5-4 victory, its third one-run decision in the tournament.
McPherson squandered its opportunity to end the tournament due to an epidemic of wildness from its pitchers, as nine walks damaged the championship hopes. Six of those walks turned into runs.
Ottawa had only four hits through five innings, but sprayed the ball around the park nine times in the final two.
So, we’re back to a one-game tournament.
“I knew with the pitching we had left for today, as far as getting Jack (Reifschneider, Sunday’s starter) healthy, it was going to be hard,” said McPherson coach Tony Schmidt, who used Jacob Loecker, Marcus McDaniel and Caleb Schmidt. “We didn’t have great command on anything. We couldn’t change speeds. I was a little bit worried about that going into today. But I’m not discouraged about our chances for tomorrow.”
Loecker got McPherson through three innings, leaving after one batter in the fourth facing a 3-2 deficit. McDaniel then got into the sixth, but the Arrows took advantage of three walks in that inning to score four times, three of those runs coming on two-out hits. Schmidt got the final out of the sixth, then surrendered five hits and five runs in the seventh as Ottawa placed a spate of singles to various parts of the park.
Post 24 again suffered from a serious case of the LOBs. After surviving Friday even though it left 14 runners on base against Ottawa, this time it stranded 11 runners and it was haunting. In the third and fourth innings alone, McPherson left five runners high and dry.
“We had our opportunities,” Schmidt said. “Early in the game we did some good things. We were aggressive. We took some chances. That’s what we plan on doing tomorrow. We’re going to do the same thing.”
Six McPherson players had two hits each — McDaniel, Schmidt, Loecker, Reifschneider, Cody Starkel and Griffin Myers. Unfortunately, 10 of them were singles, while Ottawa pinged it even more as all 13 of its hits were for a single base, four by Keegan Finch. The Arrows could have scored more had it not been for three well-executed doubleplays by the McPherson defense.
But the defensive gem of the game was turned in by Ottawa’s Tate Jung. With the bases loaded in the fourth inning and two outs, Mac’s Casen Hoover drove a ball to left field that screamed of extra bases and three RBIs. But Jung fully extended and had he not caught the ball, it would have cleared the bases.
McPherson (5) — McDaniel 5-0-2-1, Schmidt 3-1-2-1, Starkel 3-0-2-0, Hoover 4-0-0-0, Loecker 3-2-2-0, Myers 4-0-2-0, Reed 3-0-0-0, Saverino 3-1-0-1, Reifschneider 4-1-2-1.