With the season on the line, the Manhattan American Legion Manko senior 17ers built a four-run lead and held on to win Tuesday in Salina.
The 17ers defeated the Buhler Nationals, 6-4, to advance to play Salina today at 4 p.m. The winner of that game will face Newton in the first championship game tonight. The loser is eliminated.
Salina fell to the loser’s bracket final after losing to Newton, 11-4, on Tuesday. A second championship game will be played on Thursday, if necessary.
Manhattan got off to a good start in the game with a two-out double from Alex Huerta in the top of the first inning. After Huerta advanced to third on a wild pitch, Trace Nelson singled to score the first run of the game.
The 17ers added three more runs in the third inning to take a 4-0 lead. Eric Prockish reached base on an error and Ian Hart walked to setup the first run, coming on a double from Darien Stokes. Nelson hit a two-out triple to right center to score Hart and Stokes.
Manhattan capped its scoring in the fourth inning with another two runs. Jake Olson started the inning with a walk, and advanced to second on a wild pitch and then to third on a passed ball. Hart scored Olson on a sac bunt and Prockish scored a few batters later on a fielding error.
Buhler answered in the bottom of the fourth with its first two runs, both coming off bases-loaded walks. The Nationals scored their final two runs of the game in the seventh, with the first coming on a bases-loaded walk and the second coming off an error on a pickoff attempt.
Garrett Francis got the start for the 17ers and went five innings to earn the win. He allowed two runs on five hits and seven walks, while striking out five. Jeremy Broadwater came on for the final four innings and earned the save. He finished the game allowing two hits — one earned — on two hits and two walks with four strikeouts.
Nelson finished the game 2 for 4 at the plate with three RBIs. Huerta was 2 for 4. Stokes had one hit and two RBIs, while Prockish scored two runs.