The Manhattan High baseball team continued its strong spring with a pair of wins against the Emporia Spartans at Norvell Field Friday afternoon.
The Indians won 9-1 in the first game before securing a 6-1 victory in Game 2 to complete the sweep.
Despite the positive results and another strong pitching effort from all of Manhattan’s hurlers, head coach Don Hess said the Indians could have been better.
“It was kind of an uninspired effort all the way around tonight,” Hess said. “Sometimes you have those days, and we were able to not be at our best and still be successful. Wins are wins, and we’re happy to take them, but we left a little bit out there today.”
The Indians got off to a quick start in Game 1, scoring single runs in both the first and second innings, highlighted by Bret Fehr’s RBI triple.
The Indians added to the lead with a big inning in the fourth, with Fehr pounding a three-run home run to straightaway center.
“It’s just confidence, I think,” Hess said of Fehr. “He’s not fighting himself, he’s looking for pitches to hit. He’s so big and strong, if he just gets the ball in the sweet spot, he’s such a dangerous weapon.”
Fehr said his extra confidence stems from positive signs in practice.
“The past couple weeks I’ve been seeing the ball in the cage really well, and I’ve been able to transfer it over into the games, thankfully, and it’s been working,” Fehr said. “Everything’s just clicking for me right now.”
Jacob Biller added a run in the fourth with a single, followed by an errant throw on the ensuing steal attempt and the mishandling of the ball by the center fielder.
After Emporia scraped together its only run of the game against Biller, who relieved de Noble to start the sixth, Manhattan added three insurance runs before completing the win with a 1-2-3 seventh.
De Noble was sharp, in the win, allowing just three hits and no runs, striking out five and walking two.
Hess was pleased with the effort except for his team’s defense in the sixth, where three errors allowed the Spartans to break up the shutout.
“When you get into the postseason, you have to have a couple things,” Hess said. “You have to have good pitching, and you have to have people that can carry you at the plate. But you also have to have that killer instinct and be able to put people away when you have that opportunity.
“Sometimes we get a little bit lackadaisical — we had some wild pitches, passed balls, especially in the first game that really impacted the game. And against a state-caliber type team, they’re going to make you pay.”
In the second game, Emporia was able to scratch a run across the plate in the top of the first, turning an error into a run with two singles against starter Jesse Steinbring.
But the Spartans mustered zero hits the rest of the day, with a walk by Steinbring the lone baserunner as Manhattan put up at least a run in each of the remaining innings after a zero in the bottom of the first to win 6-1 and secure the sweep.
Mike Leeper had two hits in the second game, including a double, while driving in two. Kellen Myers and Jonah Webber also had doubles for the Indians, while Fehr and Biller added RBIs for the Indians to complement Steinbring’s six-inning, two-hit performance. The junior pitcher had nine strikeouts with just one walk, with Ethan Fabrizius pitching a scoreless seventh while adding a pair of strikeouts.
“Jesse was mad,” Hess said. “He didn’t like how that first inning played out. There was an error, and a couple hits, but he walked down the line between innings. I tell you what, the kid competes. There was no way that he wasn’t going to be successful tonight.”
Manhattan travels to Seaman on Wednesday for a rescheduled doubleheader before making the trip back to Topeka for a twinbill with Highland Park on Friday.