Royals even better than last year?

By Steve Sell
May 22, 2015

I have to admit I was one of those who believed that the Kansas City Royals caught lightning in a bottle last year, and a near-duplication or even a replication of their trip to the World Series was a long shot at best heading into 2015.

I picked the Royals fourth in their division, though I thought it was entirely possible that at least four teams in the AL Central could win 81 games, given the AL East and West have some holes and I thought Minnesota was a 60-win team that other teams in the Central could feast on, though that hasn't come to fruition.

But we’re now at baseball’s quarter pole — 40 games into a 162-game season — and the Royals don’t just look as good as last year, they look better.

My chief concern was starting pitching, since “Big Game James” Shields took his 200 innings and unquestioned leadership qualities to San Diego. My distrust in Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy to headline the rotation actually has surfaced, though Ventura quelled the waters with his last performance. Duffy, though, is one bad outing away from being handed a bus ticket to Omaha, if for nothing else to get his always questionable head together. When I watch him pitch, I always wonder what goes through his mind as there’s times he’s a million miles away.

Newbies Edinson Volquez and Chris Young, though, have been revelations to the rotation, though manager Ned Yost has to be careful not to overuse the veteran Young, who’s probably good for about 140 innings before maxing out. I think now that Ventura has quit trying to act like some kind of tough guy and settled down that he’ll be all right. Jeremy Guthrie, who looked on his last legs five starts into the season, has found his form and Jason Vargas will return soon.

Remember, all the Royals need is six decent innings from their starters. Their bullpen, which supposedly couldn’t raise the bar any higher, has done exactly that. Wade Davis actually is the star and that makes me wonder if the time isn’t right to deal Greg Holland while he’s at his premium worth and get another starting pitcher. Just something to float out there, but the Royals would still be plenty strong with Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Luke Hochevar, Ryan Madson and Jason Frasor. I’m not sold on Franklin Morales as the lone lefty out there, but he’s adequate and there’s still Brandon Finnegan down on the farm just waiting for his call-up.

The big surprise is the offense. I think we all know the Royals are in the midst of a sensational run and sustaining it just isn’t possible. Alex Rios is going to be back soon and all he had done is drive in eight runs in his first seven games and filled the one questionable hole, right field. Paulo Orlando and Jarod Dyson have been adequate, but Rios is far superior. Hopefully he'll pick up where he left off and he'll have fresh legs.

For years Royals fans have been waiting for cornerstones Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas to emerge. Hosmer has had flashes, but was always too hyper and anxious, often getting himself out. Moustakas was just plain stubborn, refusing to hit the ball to left field and pounding grounder after grounder to the right side. He was pedestrian at best.

But lo-and-behold, somebody finally got through to him. He’s hitting an astounding .342 with seven games of at least three hits. He’s also struck out only 15 times, so he’s putting the ball in play.

Hosmer is on the verge of being a monster. He’s at .321 with seven homers and 30 RBIs. He is on pace to walk about 80 times, which I didn’t think was possible since he’s like an unbroken colt.

Kendrys Morales has been a steal at the DH with 32 RBIs in 40 games, again another figure that he can’t keep up. But an 80-85 RBI season from him would be huge. Overall, eight of the nine Royals starters are hitting at last .264 and the exception is Orlando, who soon be replaced by the .321 Rios.

Most overlooked for the Royals, still, is their defense. The outfield routinely turns in highlight-reel catches (Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon should win Gold Gloves), Salvador Perez is the best defensive catcher in the American League, and Infante and Esobar are reliable up the middle. Moustakas does have some indifferent moments and Hosmer sometimes tries to get too fancy, but there’s no question they’re in the upper half of defenders.

Kansas City fans have embraced this team, as it’s averaging about 30,000 fans. Royals supporters stuck with this team for a long time and they’re finally being rewarded.

Good day for Wildcat thinclads

By Steve Sell
May 22, 2015

HERINGTON — Moundridge’s girls won the Herington Regional Track and Field Meet on Thursday and qualified in nine events in the process.

The meet involved four of the McPherson area schools, with the others being Inman, Little River and Canton-Galva.

The top four finishers advance on to Wichita next week. The Wildcat girls had champions in the 100 (Anna Stucky), 200 (Cassidy Siemens), 100 hurdles (Peri Lange), and two relays.

Inman was eighth, Little River 12th and Canton-Galva 14th.

On the boys’ side, Moundridge also fared well. Taking fifth as a team, the Wildcats have qualified in six events, but they should do well in those. Joel Holloway was a double champion in the long and triple jumps, DeShawn Pfeiff snared the 400 and Colton Frazer won the discus.

Little River (12th), Inman (14th) and Canton-Galva (15th) also competed.

• AREA STATE QUALIFIERS  •

Girls

100 — 1. Stucky (M) 13.1. 2. Krystan Miller (I) 13.4. 

200 — 1. Siemens (M) 27.6.

400 — 1. Stucky (M) 1:01.8.

100 hurdles — 1. Lange (M) 16.8.

300 hurdles — 2. Lange (M) 47.8.

4 x 100 relay — 1. Moundridge, 51.8. 2. Inman, 52.0.

4 x 400 relay — 1. Moundridge, 4:15.3. 3. Inman, 4:18.8.

High jump — 2. Holler (M) 5-0. 3. Dyck (M) 4-8.

Triple jump — 4. Hudson (LR) 33-6 3/4.

Javelin — 3. Holler (M) 119-4.

Boys

100 — 4. Galyon (LR) 11.8.

200 — 3. Galyon (LR) 23.9.

400 — 1. Pfeiff (M) 51.0. 4. Galyon (LR) 52.5.

1600 — 3. Renner (I) 4:58.5.

4 x 100 relay — 3. Moundridge, 45.9.

4 x 400 relay — 2. Moundridge, 3:33.3.

4 x 800 relay — 4. Inman, 8:43.1.

High jump — 3. Moddelmog (C-G) 6-0.

Long jump — 1. Holloway (M) 20-0.

Triple jump — 1. Holloway (M) 42-8 1/2. 4. Graber (M) 41-5 1/4.

Discus — 1. Frazer (M) 139-10.

Baseball Bullpups qualify for state

By Steve Sell
May 22, 2015

HAYS — The pure grit was literally dripping off the McPherson High baseball team.

And because of it, the hard-nosed Bullpups will be returning to the state tournament for the first time since 2008.

The never-day-die Bullpups squeaked out a pair of tense, one-run regional victories on Thursday and will be one of the eight participants in the Class 4A Division I Tournament at Salina’s Dean Evans Stadium, which gets under way on Thursday.

The Bullpups will take a 15-7 record into the event, as first-year coach Heath Gerstner engineered a turnaround of 180-degree proportions. They suffered through a strife-torn 7-14 season in 2014 and have done it with a team that includes only two seniors, Cody Starkel and Griffin Myers.

Defeating arch-rival Buhler 5-4 completed the Bullpups’ regional run after they had snuck past tourney host and longtime state power Hays 4-3 in the semifinals.

“I thought the story of the night was our kids’ toughness and desire to get to Dean Evans,” said Gerstner, who came to MHS from Junction City where he had guided the Bluejays to the Class 6A State Tournament. “We knew adversity would hit and did not want to be surprised by it and really allowed us to work out of some jams that changed the game. Our seniors have been so great for us and we wanted to get a regional title for Cody and Griff.”

MHS had to overcome an early 2-0 deficit against Buhler and once it took the lead, it was left up to starting pitcher Caleb Schmidt and fireman Marcus McDaniel to keep the big-hitting Crusaders at bay. 

“Schmidt started on mound, but never really felt comfortable all night.” Gerstner said. “Caleb relies on his ability to throw multiple pitches for strikes and just didn't have the feel.  What I am so proud of is his ability to just continue to compete and work his tail off to give us a chance.  Marcus McDaniel comes in to give us a six-out save, which is just awesome. I thought he definitely made it interesting, but we feel comfortable at the end of the game with Marcus on the mound.”

Buhler had the tying and go-ahead runs on base in the seventh inning when McDaniel finally doused the flames, resulting in the customary dogpile.

“Super proud of our guys and their desire to get to Dean Evans,” Gerstner said. “We talked about back on March 2 (day one of practice) that our goal was to get to Dean Evans and each and everyone truly bought into that idea and worked their tails off to get there.”

The Bullpups had advanced to the finals with a hard-earned win over Hays, which was able to feed off its home crowd. Micah McCulley got the win and McDaniel again finished it off with four outs, three via the strikeout. “Small ball” was the key as a couple of steals by Schmidt led to the winning run. Casen Hoover and Michael Saverino had two hits apiece.

“I thought we had some opportunities early to really build a lead, but credit to Hays for eliminating our opportunities,” Gerstner said. “My hat is off to Buhler and Hays as they are two well-coached teams that I would consider state-caliber teams.  They both gave us everything we could handle.”

The state pairings have not yet been announced.

Boxes

Vs. Hays

MHS (4) — Starkel 3-0-1-0, Schmidt 3-1-2-1, McDaniel 1-0-0-1, Hoover 2-0-2-1, Myers 2-0-0-0, McCulley 3-0-0-0, Loecker 2-1-1-0, Reed 0-1-0-0 Saverino -1-2-1, Werries 2-0-0-0.

Vs. Buhler

MHS (5) — Starkel 3-0-1-0, Schmidt 3-1-2-1, McDaniel 3-1-3-0, Hoover 2-0-0-0, Myers 2-0-0-1, McCulley 2-1-1-0, Loecker 2-0-0-1, Saverino 2-0-0-0, Brossard 1-0-0-0, Werries 3-0-1-0, Reed 0-2-0-0.

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Featured on Swap Shop

Wanted

Someone with a tiller to do a tilling project -- 620-241-8535

Queen-size metal bed frame -- 620-755-3228

Announcements

"Concerts for a Cause" free family-friendly concert TONIGHT at 7pm at the Plaza downtown. All proceeds from tonight's concession sales will benefit the Girl Scouts. --

Found

LOST Sheltie mix dog recently sighted 1 mile west of Schmucker Lumber near Inman. Call for more information. -- 620-904-7800

Wanted

Smart phone for Verizon with a larger screen OR someone who can work on a Droid Razr Max smart phone -- 620-242-3604

Announcements

Chris Kagle Medical Fundraiser Bake Sale at 303 E First St in McPherson this Saturday, May 23 from 10am-5pm. --

Wanted

Used 16" tire on a 7" rim in good condition for a spare -- 620-755-9015, ask for Jason

Queen-size metal bed frame -- 620-755-3228 or 242-6288

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The annual McPherson High School Booster Club Sports Physical Night is scheduled for TONIGHT, May 19th at Family Practice Associates, 1010 Hospital Drive. It starts at 6 p.m. and is for youth in grade school through high school. This is a great chance for your youth to get their physicals for the 2015-16 school year at a reduced cost of only $25. --

For Sale

Craftmatic Twin XL adjustable bed with memory foam mattress, headboard and mattress cover $400/obo -- 755-5103

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Someone with 12"-16" post hole auger to dig a project -- 620-242-6333

Lid for large oval-shaped Rival crock pot and lid for large round Rival crock pot -- 620-245-9469

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