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McPherson Repeats in 4A Baseball

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By Harold Bechard, KSHSAA Covered Contributor

 

SALINA, Kan. – Jaret Myers was on the mound last season when McPherson won its first-ever state baseball championship. Myers and the Bullpups liked it so much, they thought they’d do it again.

Twelve months later, the Bullpups are once again the kings of Class 4A baseball after a 6-0 victory over the Cinderella Blue Comets from Chanute at jam-packed Dean Evans Stadium.

Myers was on the mound and near the bottom of a dog pile celebration as the Bullpups wrapped up a dominant state tournament performance and 21-4 season.

“I really don’t have a whole lot of words right now,” Myers said.  “It’s different because it’s my senior year, and I’m going to miss these guys, but, man the feeling’s the same, it’s just surreal. It’s awesome to win with my best friends on the field.”

Myers was in control throughout, allowing just two hits, while striking out nine and walking just his second and third batters … of the season.   Chanute (16-9) stranded four runners and had only one reach second base.

“You know, my off-speed was really good, but I felt like my fastball location wasn’t where I wanted it to be,” said Myers, who finished the season with a 6-1 record.  “But, I just kept competing, finding it, then losing it, then finding it again. Just knowing that I have one of the best defenses in the state behind me helps me throw a lot more strikes.”

McPherson, which finished the tournament outscoring its three opponents, 23-5, broke the game open in the middle innings, scoring twice in the bottom of the third and four more times in the fourth.

Pitching was the key to Chanute’s success in the tournament.  The eighth-seeded Blue Comets (16-9) knocked off top-seeded Clay Center in the first round and Fort Scott in the semifinals by identical 1-0 scores as Rhett Smith and Brax Peter each threw two-hit shutouts.

The scoreless string grew to 16 innings before McPherson got to Chanute starter Parker Manly in the third inning.

“We really pride ourselves with our pitching,” Chanute head coach Ryan Ortiz said. “We always teach, hey, keep the ball down and get ground balls and our defense works hard. We made a lot of plays in this tournament that kept us in games.  Our bats didn’t quite get going, but facing three first-team all-state pitchers is tough.  It’s tough to get through all three, but we got through two of them to get to this game.

“Our pitching kept us in every game, even this one. They had a couple innings, but we still had a chance.”

McPherson’s Jaytin Gumm opened the third inning with a walk, stole second and advanced to third on a one-out single by Teegan Haines.  Gumm then scored the game’s first run on a safety squeeze from Dawson Feil and Haines followed him in on a single to center by Gavin Richardson.

The Bullpups tacked on four insurance runs in the bottom of the fourth after two were out and nobody on base.  Carter Allen was hit by a pitch – one of five times that happened in the game – and Gumm and Hunter Alvord each singled to load the bases.

Haines, who led the Bullpups with seven hits and six runs scored in the tournament, then greeted Chanute freshman reliever Kristopher Harding with a two-run single to left-center to make it a 4-0 game. The Blue Comets then misplayed Dawson Fiel’s line drive to right field as Alvord and Haines scored to make it 6-0.

That was more then enough as the Bullpups cruised in for their second straight state title and Myers picked up his second victory in as many championship games.

“To be honest, our goal was to try and find a way to score first and make them feel like they were playing from behind,” McPherson coach Heath Gerstner said.  “Give credit to their pitcher, their lefty was really good and they’re a scrappy bunch.  They play the game the right way; they play hard and I knew they would be a huge challenge. A lot of respect for them, but we had a pretty good one on the mound as well.

“Very few kids know what it takes to pitch in a state championship game.  It’s just a different feel.  You have a big crowd right on top of you and every pitch matters.  And, (Myers) has visualized this moment, he’s worked for this moment and he’s been really darn good for us.”

Myers is one of eight McPherson seniors on the roster to leave school with back-to-back titles.

“It’s just amazing – our community, our families and our school have just been unbelievable,” Gerstner said. “Our eight seniors, this has been a goal of theirs. To scratch and claw and find a way to do it again is pretty special.”

Fort Scott (18-7) won the third-place game with a 10-9 victory over Paola (15-10) in eight innings.  The Tigers scored three times in the bottom of the seventh to get the game tied and then won in the eighth on a walk-off balk.

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