Amazing defense keyed Post 24's second-round victory

By Steve Sell
July 31, 2015

The gloves glittered like gold. 

If ESPN had needed some Web Gem highlights, it could have sent a crew to McPherson’s Grant Complex Thursday night and filled its entire broadcast.

It was defense, defense and more defense to the rescue for Post 24, as its fielders probably saved — and this is a conservative estimate — a half-dozen runs to secure a 6-3 second-round state-tournament victory over a very good Great Bend team that probably was kicking itself during the 60-mile trip home for all the opportunities that it let slip through its fingers.

The chief tormentor was Jacob Loecker, who had a tumbling catch in left field early in the game to rob the Chiefs of probably two runs. Then after moving to first base in the sixth inning when starting pitcher Caleb Schmidt was lifted for normal first baseman Marcus McDaniel, he speared a two-out hot shot that was screaming down the right field line that would have cleared the three bases that had been occupied with Chiefs.

Loecker, in a sense, saved at least five runs with his platinum-glove work.

Meanwhile, Casen Hoover made like a vacuum at third base in the fifth inning. With two runners on and one out, Great Bend’s Jared Maneth scalded a ball that Hoover had a split-second to react to. He fielded the ball on one hop and started a 5-4-3 DP that squelched yet another Chiefs rally.

McPherson catcher Cody Starkel was his usual massive presence behind the plate, including a gundown of a would-be base stealer in the fourth inning. Starkel, to most observers who have seen all the games in the tournament, is the best player in the field. In addition to being the team’s quarterback, he’s hit two homers and driven in five runs in two games.

You really had to feel sorry for Great Bend. It had 20 runners reach base in seven innings and was one pitch away from scoring only one run, as its final two runs came with two out in the seventh inning. Schmidt gutted threw his 5 1/3 innings and surprisingly didn’t become dizzy from all the runners that reached against him. McDaniel trembled McPherson fans early in the seventh inning by allowing the first two runners to get on, but eventually struck out the side.

This McPherson team is seeking a second straight state championship. The core group of players — Mikey Saverino is the only regular who wasn’t on the field last year at Leavenworth — showed its grit there by winning six straight games in the losers bracket to win the Class A state championship. Then as McPherson Bullpups this spring, they captured second in the state, which included a numbing, come-from-behind victory over league rival Rose Hill in the semifinals.

McPherson now plays an Ottawa team that is a mirror image of themselves. It is coached by Brian Long, a proud McPherson High graduate who no doubt will be conflicted since he bleeds Bullpup Red and White. I’m sure if his team doesn’t win the state title, he’ll be hoping it’s Post 24.

Ottawa has won a pair of one-run games so far, including Thursday’s second-round game when it pushed across a run in the final inning on a bases-loaded hit batter. It probably believes it has some destiny working.

At this point in a state tournament, it all comes down to pitching. McPherson coach Tony Schmidt probably will go with Loecker as his starter today, but Starkel is an intriguing possibility. He certainly has the arm, but hasn’t pitched much in high-stress situations. Plus, it makes the McPherson defense weaker as he’s such a stalwart and team leader behind the dish.

Ottawa, too, has to send out probably it’s No. 3 pitcher. The winner, of course, has a huge advantage the rest of the way because most teams that win state do it without coming all the way back through the losers bracket.

McPherson-Great Bend photo gallery now posted

By Steve Sell
July 31, 2015

Relive McPherson’s thrilling 6-3 victory over Great Bend in Thursday’s American Legion Class AAA State Tournament second-round game through the lens of Midkansasonline.comcontributing photographer Kendall Shaw.

Kendall captured some of the game’s most dramatic moments. Go to our sports gallery link and type in McPherson High School, Senior Legion and Great Bend.

Check out Kendall’s work at his website www.outdoorkansas.zenfolio.com. To purchase photos, contact him at 242-7232.

Sr. Legion one win away from title game

By Steve Sell
July 31, 2015

The Great Bend Chiefs could have established a small community with the number of runners they had on base Thursday night against McPherson Post 24 in the second round of the Class AAA American Legion State Baseball Tournament at Grant Complex.

Through the first six innings, the Chiefs had 18 different batters reach base in one way or another. 

All they had to show for it, however, was one measly run.

McPherson pitcher Caleb Schmidt, for the first 5 1/3 innings, was Houdini-like in that he kept getting himself in and out of shackles. The trend continued with closer Marcus McDaniel, who got the final four outs to end a frustrating night for Great Bend as it succumbed to Post 24, 6-3.

“The problem with Caleb is that he’s kind of throwing across his body,” McPherson coach Tony Schmidt said. “So what happens is that his fastball tails back in... but it took us a while to figure out what was working for him tonight and his breaking ball was better than his cutter... once we figured that out it was a little bit better.”

McPherson is now one victory away from playing for the state championship. It takes on Ottawa in today’s 5:00 winners bracket finals and a victory moves it into Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. championship game. As Post 24 well knows, however, there could be two championship games since the tournament is double-elimination and if that plays out, it would be at 11 a.m. Sunday.

If McPherson loses today, it plays at 11 a.m. Saturday in the finals of the losers bracket.

This was a wildly entertaining game as neither team ever was retired in order at any point during the proceedings. Post 24 actually decided the game with two early swings of the bat — a parabola of a two-run homer by All-State catcher Cody Starkel, whose moon shot nearly touched the sky, and a two-run slicing triple by McDaniel in the second inning that made it 4-1.

The rest of the game belonged to McPherson’s pitching and defense. Twice the Chiefs left the bases loaded and two other times they left two runners on. For the game, they stranded 13 runners.

“I’m happy with our pitching,” Schmidt said. “We got through it. We hammed and egged it and we made it work.”

Three defensive plays highlighted the game, two by Jacob Loecker. He made a circus catch early in the game in left field that saved two runs, then a diving stop at first base with the bases loaded in the sixth on a shot by dangerous Great Bend hitter Brady Michel that could have gone down the line and cleared the bases. 

Casen Hoover also came up with tremendous see-what-I-found stop at third base to start a 5-4-3 doubleplay in the fifth inning.

McDaniel finished with two hits and three RBIs to lead Post 24’s attack. Schmidt added two hits. Great Bend actually out-hit Post 24, 9-8. The Chiefs also earned seven walks and two hit batters and for the game, had 20 baserunners in all.

McPherson now is matched against an Ottawa team that is coached by McPherson High graduate Brian Long. It won in dramatic walk-off fashion on Thursday as the winning run was scored on a bases-loaded hit batter.

Tony Schmidt said he was unsure who would get the ball today, though he seemed to be leaning toward starting Loecker. There was an outside possibility that he might take Starkel from behind the plate, but noted that would weaken the team’s defense since Starkel has been tremendous in two games as he’s thrown out all would-be stealers.

Box 

McPherson (6) — McDaniel 4-0-2-3, Schmidt 3-1-2-0, Starkel 2-1-1-2, Hoover 3-1-1-0, Loecker 2-0-0-0, Reed 3-0-0-0, Myers 2-1-1-0, Saverino 1-1-1-0, Reifschneider 2-1-0-0.

• THURSDAY’S SCORES •

Newton 7, Garden City 5 (Garden City eliminated)

Emporia 4, Oskaloosa 1 (Oskaloosa eliminated)

Ottawa 7, Wichita 6

McPherson 6, Great Bend 3

• FRIDAY’S GAMES •

11:00 — Emporia vs. Wichita (loser eliminated)

1:30 — Newton vs. Great Bend (loser eliminated)

5:00 — Ottawa vs. McPherson

7:30 — Winner of Emporia-Wichita vs. winner of Newton-Great Bend (loser eliminated)

• SATURDAY’S GAMES •

11:00 — Losers bracket finals

1:30 — Championship game

• SUNDAY’S GAME 

11:00 — Championship game (if needed)

Circles Leaders hosting benefit garage sale Saturday

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Sell On Sports

Amazing defense keyed Post 24's second-round victory

The gloves glittered like gold. 

If ESPN had needed some Web Gem highlights, it could have sent a crew to McPherson’s Grant Complex Thursday night and filled its entire broadcast.

It was defense, defense and more defense to the rescue... Read More

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