MCPHERSON – Jeffrey Neill started in the first game of a doubleheader against a rival. The twist was pitching in freezing temperatures and 35 mph winds.
He did not back down from the challenge.
Neill let the No. 4 Class 4A Buhler Crusaders baseball team win a game one over the No. 2 McPherson Bullpups 5-3 after pitching a full game. McPherson and Buhler split the series after the Bullpups stole Game 2 3-2 with an unearned run in the bottom of the seventh.
In game two, Neill dove for a drilled ground fly to his position at second base, crawled to his knees and made the hard throw to first baseman Carson Moler, who was not at weather. Moler’s throw to home plate was also not in time as McPherson’s Hunter Alvord crossed home plate for the win.
But even after McPherson escaped Game 2, Buhler’s baseball head coach John Neill, Jeffrey’s father, was pleased with the challenge early in the season and the way his players handled the conditions. Throwing, lining up and hitting in beyond normal playing conditions adds more to the game, and he was happy after the night.
That’s because McPherson routed Buhler in Game 2 of last year’s doubleheader 12-5. In Thursday’s game, Buhler held McPherson to three points in both games.
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For Neill getting more time on the court this year, especially at the start and playing in big games like Thursday, he said it was a game-changer and hopes to improve game after game.
“I’m getting more reps,” Neill said. “I’m gaining confidence as the season progresses. So we won (one), but we can still do better.”
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John Neill said Jeffrey did a “remarkable job” delivering throws and competing. Jeffrey’s brother, Bradley Sr., started in Game 2 and went seven and two-thirds innings before he hit his pitch limit and tied the game at 2-2. Bradley had retired McPherson’s first two batters in the bottom of the seventh before allowing a base hit.
“It was pretty cool to see Jeffrey go the distance and get the dub,” John Neill said. “Bradley did a great job in game two. We make a few plays we didn’t make and we win that ball game. I feel really good where we are… I’m proud of these guys and how they competed. It was a good test to see where we are, and I feel pretty good where we are.
The Buhler boys’ track and field program did not beat McPherson in all sports played in the 2021-2022 school year, namely football, basketball, men’s soccer, cross country and now baseball.
Bradley and Jeffrey pitched together for all but one in the doubleheader on Thursday.
After Thursday’s games, Buhler Baseball is now 5-1 on the year with a quick one-series road trip to Wellington on Monday before hosting Wichita Collegiate for a non-league doubleheader the following Monday at Wray Field of Buhler.
Billy Watson is the sports reporter for The Hutchinson News and has been in Kansas since March 2021. To pitch story ideas, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or direct message on Twitter @hutchsports or @billywatson4l.