Win, lose or draw, Manhattan High baseball coach Don Hess knew Friday’s doubleheader against Topeka High would be a much-needed chance to see his team in action.
While spring weather hasn’t cooperated in regard to practice time so far this season, the Indians were able to shake off the rust of practicing almost exclusively indoors in a pair of run-rule shortened victories over the Trojans. Manhattan took game one 15-5 before a sharper effort in game two resulted in a 16-0 win.
“We were a little rough around the edges,” Hess said. “Defensively, we just haven’t had any defensive work. So we made some mistakes that we hopefully won’t make again on defense. Pitching, we’ve only thrown to live hitters once. We thought coming into the year that pitching was going to be a strength, and as the doubleheader wore on, it became a strength.”
While pitching was good for the Indians, it was the offense that put the game away, with the Indians racking up 10 hits in the first game and 12 in the second. Between the two games, Manhattan did not have an inning without scoring at least two runs.
Junior Bret Fehr, who hit leadoff in both games, had a solid day, going 2 for 3 with a triple in game one before smashing a two-run home run to straightaway center in the second game.
Indian hitters had nine extra-base hits and drew a total of 15 walks in the game as the Topeka High struggled to get outs in the early going of both games. That led to plenty of opportunities to steal bases, with mostly successful results.
“We really haven’t had much practice time on baserunning,” Hess said. “We made a couple bad decisions, but we were aggressive, which we like to be. Hitting-wise, I think we got guys more and more comfortable as the games wore on. We started to understand a little bit more what’s expected of them and as we move through, I think we’ll get better.”
Manhattan game-one starter TJ Giller gave up two runs on two hits to the Trojans. Chris Klug came on in relief in the fourth inning and gave up three runs on four hits. Both pitchers struggled to retire the leadoff hitter. Sophomore Jesse Steinbring pitched a 1-2-3 fifth inning to put the game away, getting two strikeouts and a soft grounder that didn’t leave the infield.
In the second game, Jacob Biller got the start and was sharp, going three innings without a hit while racking up four strikeouts. Ethan Fabrizius allowed just one infield single in his inning of work before Henry de Noble closed the game out with another 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts.
“The first game, we struggled a little bit walking the leadoff hitter,” Hess said. “You just can’t hit or walk the leadoff guy - you can’t do it. The second game, we did a better job of pitching ahead in the count. Defense as a result was playing looser and we made the routine plays.”
Hess said the plan was to see at least six guys pitch on Friday since the team has a full week between games.
“That was our plan, win or lose,” he said. “We knew we needed to come in and see at least six guys, if not seven, throw. We need to start figuring out who is capable. Knowing we don’t play again for another week, it takes too long to go through that process.”
Overall, Hess said he was happy with the way his team started the year.
“As the doubleheader went on, we played better, we played with a purpose and we started to figure things out,” he said. “All in all, I was very pleased.”
Manhattan travels to Hayden for a doubleheader on Friday.