When it comes to summer baseball, playing in uncomfortably hot temperatures is part of the deal.
Still, Tuesday evening’s game between the American Legion Manhattan Manko senior 17ers and the Westmoreland Post 186 Rock Creek Mustangs, which coincided with a heat warning from the National Weather Service, was especially sticky.
Despite a slow start, Manhattan eventually took control in the late innings and won 12-2 against the Mustangs, scoring 10 runs over the final three frames, despite being outhit 10-8 by Rock Creek.
“We did some nice things today,” Manhattan coach Luke Snyder said. “It was good to see some other guys out on the field having some success. We pitched the ball pretty well — we didn’t give away too many free bags and we made most of the plays we needed to make.”
For Rock Creek, not capitalizing on all of its scoring opportunities ended up making the game look less competitive than it really was.
“We were in that ballgame,” Rock Creek coach Chad Herren said. “If you look up there, we were battling them hit for hit. If we score a few more runs when we had opportunities early, that ballgame stays close. It didn’t really get out of hand until late. We were sore on arms, and I know they are too, so as far as a game, it was pretty good and didn’t really bust open until late.”
Both teams went to their bullpens after three innings, despite a 0-0 score. Manhattan starter Ethan Fabrizius had a solid day, allowing just two hits while striking out five, while Rock Creek starter Shane Adams was even better, allowing no hits and striking out five while facing the minimum.
Herren said Adams was on a strict inning count regardless of how well he performed.
“It’s purely to save his arm,” he said. “He’s going off to play college ball in the fall. He threw this weekend too, and we’re trying to get everybody in a rhythm as we get to postseason play. But he was pitching well.”
For Fabrizius, staying fresh while working on a secondary pitch was the plan all along.
“With Ethan, specifically, I wanted him to go out there and work on his changeup,” Snyder said. “He’s been relying on two pitches this year, and done well with those two pitches. But moving forward, we need to work on his changeup and he did a nice job with it in his three innings.”
With both starters getting a no-decision, it came down to a battle of the bullpens. Manhattan’s Garrett Francis came on in relief in the fourth and earned the win with 2 1/3 innings of one-run ball, allowing four hits and striking out three. Rock Creek’s Marc Reiss took the loss giving up two runs in an inning of relief.
The 17ers took its two-run lead in the fourth with a two-RBI single by Chris Klug after back-to-back walks by Rock Creek (7-10).
Manhattan (15-14) would add three runs in the sixth inning, beginning with a pair of singles by Josh Mullin and Jonah Webber. Klug doubled home a run to give Manhattan runners on second and third with one out. A passed ball allowed Webber and Klug to both score on the same play, as Rock Creek catcher Alex Feldkamp tried to throw home to the pitcher covering but instead hit Webber, giving Klug plenty of time to come down from third base.
The 17ers got four more in the seventh off four hits, but got help from the Mustang defense, which had two costly errors that permanently shifted the momentum in Manhattan’s favor.
“The biggest thing is there when they get four runs, we’re playing with five outs, so that’s big,” Herren said. “That carries it over.”
After Rock Creek got a run in the eighth on Feldkamp’s RBI single, Manhattan got three runs in the bottom of the frame to end the game via run rule.
The 17ers ended the game with just one defensive error, while Rock Creek had four on a day when both team’s pitchers were leaning on their defense.
“When it’s hot like this, you don’t want to be out on defense any longer than you have to be,” Snyder said. “So you better want that ball hit to you and you better be able to make the play when it does.”
The heat got bad enough that Manhattan coaches had to take the field to relieve the umpires who needed a break in a couple half innings. Both teams used their whole benches in an effort to stay fresh.
“After five games this past weekend, and looking at five games coming this weekend, we needed to get some fresh guys in there,” Snyder said. “You don’t want to overthrow anybody, but get some guys some work and keep them fresh at the same time.”
Moving forward, Manhattan plays in the K-State Showcase this weekend, but the schedule has not yet been released.