At the beginning of the summer, McPherson might have folded.

At the beginning of the summer, McPherson might have folded.
Post 24 had been rattled for three runs off four hits by host Hays in the opening half inning of Thursday’s American Legion Class A Zone Tournament at Larks Park in Hays. Two of those hits were doubles.
Instead of hanging their heads and moping about the runs, however, McPherson buckled down on defense, with starting pitcher Micah McCulley striking out three of the final four batters he faced in the first inning.
When they got their opportunity, Post 24 returned the favor two-fold on the Eagles and advanced to the Class A State Tournament starting Wednesday in Leavenworth.
“That was the best part of the whole game,” McPherson coach Tony Schmidt said after the 11-3, run-rule win Thursday. “Being down and then coming out and scoring six runs. That shows their character. It’s grown a lot. I’m real happy with that.”
McCulley went the distance to pick up the win, facing 44 batters and striking out 11 of them. He gave up the three runs, all earned, off five hits and four walks. In total, McCulley threw 108 pitches.
Really, the first inning, with Hays getting four of their five hits, was an abberation.
“He established the strike zone that first inning and got a base set underneath and went from there,” Schmidt said. “He pitched very, very well.”
McPherson batted a round and began a second rotation in the bottom of the first inning, with Cody Starkel getting two of his game-high three hits in the first inning. He also added a long double to left center field in the of the fifth.
That first inning, though, was a total team effort from Post 24 (22-6). McCulley and Jacob Loecker both had RBI doubles in the six-run inning, while three others had RBI singles.
“No complaints,” Schmidt said. “Everybody did their job when they needed to do it. We had two innings where we didn’t score, but we made up for that in the first inning and we scored after that. They did well tonight.”
Loecker finished the night with the two hits and three RBIs, while Kolby Reed drove in two runs.
McPherson will head into Leavenworth to play in the state tournament for the first time in about a decade, though the exact amount of time since a McPherson Legion team made it to state is unknown as of press time.
The bracket hadn’t been released as of Thursday night, though the assumption is that McPherson will play in the 10 a.m. game July 23.
Regardless of their opponent and game time, the fact that Post 24 will make the trip put a huge smile on not only the players’ faces, but Schmidt’s as well.
“It’s going to be good to represent [Hays, Salina and Great Bend] and, really, McPherson American Legion baseball,” Schmidt said. “That’s pretty cool. We’ve got a pretty good group of kids here and a good base for next year and the year after that, as well.”

Contact Chris Swick by email at and follow him on Twitter @SwickSentinel.