SALINA — Better focus. Better energy. Better results.
The McPherson Bullpups got all three in the second game of a baseball triangular Tuesday, closing with a 12-2 run-rule victory over Topeka West at Dean Evans Stadium.
It was a much-needed win for McPherson (2-4), ending a four-game losing streak and coming on the heels of a 9-3 loss to Salina Central in the first game of the day.
"We didn't play our brand of baseball the first game," McPherson Head Coach Heath Gerstner said. "I challenged them between games, and we brought better energy and played more what I call the Bullpup way."
Bullpup pitchers Dylan Rinker, Aiden Hoover and Simon Boese combined on a four-hitter, and the offense had its best run production in six games this season.
Gabe Hoover had three hits and drove in three runs, Jakob Feil and Chandler Wiard had two hits each and Tanner Cheatham had two RBIs in the five-inning contest.
"Topeka West is a young team, but I was excited for our guys to come out and end a four-game losing streak," Gerstner said. "There were no individuals that stood out. It took a team effort to get that win."
After a scoreless first inning, the Bullpups took the lead for good with an Honestee Whittker sacrifice fly and RBI single from Cheatham in the second.
The lead was 4-1 after back-to-back RBI singles from Spencer Whitfield and Aiden Hoover in the third. Feil and Gabe Hoover both singled home a run in a four-run fourth that made it 8-2.
The Bullpups ended it an inning later, combining four walks, a hit batter, an RBI single from Wiard and a two-run single from Gabe Hoover in the five-run inning.
With six games already completed and two more later this week, Gerstner limited the innings pitcher for each Bullpup that took the mound. No McPherson pitcher in either game threw more than 2.1 innings.
Rinker got the start against West, with Aiden Hoover giving up one hit in 2.1 innings of relief before Boese got the final two outs.
"Our focus, when they get on the mound, is to throw a lot of strikes and repeat that," Gerstner said. "We were going to limit our guys and their pitch count. We have six games in seven days, so we had to limit their pitches some, and that's why you saw us pull some guys out in the middle of counts."
McPherson had an RBI single from Aiden Hoover in the third to pull even with Salina Central at two-all, then took the lead an inning later on Gabe Hoover's run-scoring single to make it 3-2.
The Mustangs, playing their first game of the season, tied it with a run in the bottom of the fourth, then added two in the fifth and four runs in the sixth.
The Bullpups had six hits in the contest, one each for six different players. Feil did score two runs, and Whitfield reached safely three times on two walks and hit batter.
McPherson will be at home Thursday for a pair of league contests against Buhler.
"We're excited to play Buhler on Thursday," Gerstner said. "It's a big rivalry and both teams will be up for that."