There will be a number of notations beside the entry in the record books for the 2014 McPherson Post 24 17U baseball team.

There will be a number of notations beside the entry in the record books for the 2014 McPherson Post 24 17U baseball team.
They were the first team in 33 years to lose their first game in the Kansas American Legion Class A State Tournament and come back to win six straight and become state champs.
Post 24 became the first McPherson team since in almost 40 years to win an American Legion state championship, as the last time the feat was accomplished was by a Senior Legion squad in 1975.
They also became the first Class A McPherson Legion team since 1954 to win a state championship.
“I’m so proud,” McPherson coach Tony Schmidt said. “The Good Lord blessed these kids with the ability to play baseball, and that’s what they did. They play seven games in four days and I don’t think there was a let down from game one to game seven.”
McPherson defeated Andover Central, the team that sent them into the loser’s bracket to begin with, twice to earn the state championship. Saturday, Post 24 held off a furious, seventh-inning comeback from the Jaguars to win 6-4 and force a final game Sunday.
“We had a feeling that, if we met them again, we would beat them,” Schmidt said.
It seemed, then, that they saved their best bats for the finals, as McPherson (28-7) blistered Andover Central starting pitcher Austin Ray for nine hits and seven runs, and finished with 15 hits on the day against three total Jaguar pitchers.
McPherson left no doubt that this was their championship to win from the top of the second inning, as they unloaded for five runs. Jack Reifschneider drove in a pair of runs off a grounder to the short stop to kick off the scoring. Cody Starkel added an RBI single, while Marcus McDaniel had another two-RBI shot two batters later.
Andover Central tried to cut into the lead, as they managed three runs going into the top of the fifth, but McPherson put the hammer down and put the game out of reach with a three-run effort in the inning.
Starkel added another RBI to his total and finished with two on the day in a 2-for-5 showing at the plate.
McDaniel went 3-for-4 with two RBIs. Jacob Loecker, Kolby Reed, Casen Hoover and Caleb Schmidt all had two hits for McPherson.
Schmidt and Reifschneider also added two RBIs to the championship winning effort.
“We left a lot of guys on base,” Tony Schmidt said, “but we had a lot of quality at-bats. We probably had more quality at-bats [Sunday] than we did in  any other game in the tournament.”
Micah McCulley, who was the winning pitcher in Post 24’s Zone championship win over Hays, proved to have similar luck on the mound against Andover. McCulley went 3 1/3 innings to start before he hit his limit, giving up all three runs, two earned, off five hits and four walks. He struck out five.
“Micah did a great job today,” Tony Schmidt said. “When you play short stop, pitch and run the bases, you’re going to get worn out. He went four innings and we saw that he was beginning to get tired, so we put Jack Reifschneider out there and that was a good decision.”
Reifschneider closed out both Andover wins Saturday and Sunday. He was credited with a save in Sunday’s championship win, as he went the final 3 2/3 innings, giving up no runs, four hits and two walks. He struck out four of the 29 batters he faced.
Caleb Schmidt had the win in Saturday’s game against the Jaguars, as he went 6 1/3 innings. He had four strike outs, four walks and nine hits, with three earned runs.
Starkel, McDaniel and Hoover all had two hits, with Hoover notching two RBIs to lead McPherson.
Post 24 defeated Doniphan County in the play-in game for the championship Saturday 14-8.
The team atmosphere for McPherson was evident from the opening pitch of the tournament, as the entire Post 24 roster played unselfishly. Tony Schmidt noted an example of this mentality came in the championship game, when McDaniel gave up his final at-bat to Trenton Olson, who pinch hit and hit a rocket down the third-base line.
“That’s what I love about this team,” Schmidt said. “They understand the team mentality. That’s what makes them so unique.”
Schmidt was also complimentary of his assistant coaches throughout the season. New McPherson High baseball coach Heath Gerstner has been a constant presence in the Post 24 dugout since the end of June, while Seth Sterling has pitched in when he can. The true MVP of McPherson’s season, though has been first base coach Scott Graham.
“He takes care of me and is so selfless,” Schmidt said. “These kids know how hard he works, and they respond to that, even though he doesn’t have a kid playing. He just loves baseball.”
Parents and the American Legion sponsors have also been a huge part of keeping the program running through the year, as the parents come to every game and help pitch in where they can.
The sponsors, meanwhile, have picked up the tab for the times the Legion has had to travel and stay in hotels this season, including this week in Leavenworth. More than that, Midway Motors provided the vans that the team used to travel to the state tournament.
“To have sponsors like that,” Schmidt said, “to have people who just love baseball is tremendous. We appreciate the Legion sponsors so much.”
It was a magical end to a season that began for many of the players on the tail-end of a tumultuous spring with the MHS program.
“When we first started the M.B.A., some of these kids were the first kids to play together,” Schmidt said. “To win a state championship is a dream come true for these guys.”
It’s a dream that others coming up through the ranks of McPherson baseball will not only see, but aspire to for years to come.“We told the kids [before the championship game], that they aren’t just playing for the Legion or for themselves,” Schmidt said. “They are playing for the future kids. This isn’t just about them, this is about the future of McPherson baseball.”
And that future looks sweet.

Box Scores
American Legion Class A State Tournament
Saturday, July 26
McPherson 14, Doniphan County 8
Starkel 3-3-0-0; Schmidt 1-4-0-0; McDaniel 4-4-4-2; Burney 4-1-3-4; Loecker 4-9-3-4; Hoover 4-0-2-0; McCulley 3-0-1-1; Reed 3-1-0-0; Reifschneider 2-1-0-0; Olson 1-0-0-0
Starkel (W) 5-7-5-2-1-1; McDaniel (SV) 2-3-3-2-1-2.
Saturday, July 26
McPherson 6, Andover Central 4
Starkel 4-0-2-1; Schmidt 2-1-1-0; McDaniel 3-2-2-0; Burney 2-0-1-1; Eilts 0-1-0-0; Loecker 1-1-1-0; Hoover 3-0-2-2; McCulley 3-0-1-1; Reed 3-1-1-0; Reifschneider 3-0-0-0.
Schmidt (W) 6 1/3-9-3-3-4-4; Reifschneider 2/3-1-0-0-0-2.
Sunday, July 27
McPherson 10, Andover Central 3
Starkel 5-2-2-2; Schmidt 4-0-2-2; McDaniel 4-0-3-2; Olson 1-0-1-0; Burney 4-0-0-0; Loecker 4-2-2-0; Hoover 3-0-2-0; McCulley 1-3-0-0; Reed 4-2-2-0; Reifschneider 3-1-1-2.
McCulley (W) 3 1/3-5-3-2-4-5; Reifschneider (SV) 3 2/3-4-0-0-2-4.

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