Things didn’t look good for the Manhattan American Legion Manko senior 17ers on Thursday.
But after a 10-9 win over Hays on Friday and an 11-3 win over St. Joseph, Mo., on Saturday morning the 17ers looked like they were starting to show progress.
The 17ers will play St. Joseph again in the third-place game today at 10 a.m.
“We’re taking steps forward, which is all we’ve ever asked from Day 1,” Manhattan coach Steve Disbrow said. “The guys are buying in to what we want to do and how we want to play and they’re committed to getting better. It shows in how we’re playing and it also shows in the result.”
The 17ers (2-3) opened Saturday’s game with a run in the top of the first before adding another in the fourth inning.
The game turned completely in Manhattan’s favor in the fifth inning when Grant Urban opened the frame with a double, followed by an Ian Hart single. Urban then scored on a St. Joe error to give the 17ers a 3-0 lead.
AJ Epperson then smacked a single to bring in Hart, followed by a double from Trace Nelson to deep right field to score Epperson. Darien Stokes singled in Nelson and Wes Whitney singled to bring in Isaac Leon.
Urban then came back up to single in Stokes and make it 8-0. Garrett Francis then topped the inning with a bases-clearing double to make the score 11-0.
It was exactly the kind of inning Disbrow knew his team was capable of all along.
“Most times you see crooked numbers up there,” Disbrow said. “It’s not five or six hits in a row. Maybe you mix in a walk on a good at-bat, move a runner over, steal a base and do little things like that and maybe get a break with an error. You have to find ways to manufacture runs.”
Nathan Kordyak pitched for the win for the 17ers, and held St. Joe scoreless until he started to tire in the fifth when he allowed an RBI single. St. Joe scored two more runs on back-to-back errant throws by catcher Alex Huerta, who tried to throw out runners at third.
Disbrow said after pitchers struggled on Thursday, his team came back with solid performances in the following days.
“It’s been great and it starts with making them put the ball in play,” he said. “Nathan pitched great, but ran out of gas there in the fifth. Going into that inning he only had one walk, and it was OK. Our guys just have to compete and they have been.”
The win over St. Joe ensured the 17ers an extra day of baseball, as the top four of the five teams in the tournament advance to action today, with a third-place game at 10 a.m. and a championship game to follow at 12:15 p.m.
Although the 17ers’ shot at making it to today looked bleak after its opening-day losses, Disbrow said he knew his team’s early struggles were all fixable.
“Even after Thursday’s games, we felt like much of our problems were self-inflicted,” he said. “It’s not like we have hitters who can’t hit or pitchers who can’t get the ball over the plate, we have those things. So everything that we needed to improve was in our control.
“We told the guys we needed to take the steps to fix it, and to their credit, we’ve done it.”
17ers hang on to beat Hays
The 17ers got all they could handle in a 10-9 win over Hays on Friday, surviving a rally in the bottom of the seventh to score their first win of the season.
Manhattan led 10-4 after the top of the fifth inning, but Hays piled on three runs in the bottom of the fifth, and then scored two runs off two 17ers’ errors and had the tying run at second with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.
Layne Downing, who hit a home run in the fourth for Hays, came to the plate having gone 3 for 3 on the night, but struck out swinging to preserve the win for the 17ers.
Jeremy Broadwater got the win for the 17ers after going 4 1/3 innings and allowing seven runs — six earned — on eight hits and a walk with four strikeouts. Francis got the save and gave up two hits and two runs in two innings of work, while striking out three.