ith the end of the season schedule showing doubleheaders on three consecutive days, Manhattan High softball coach Scott Mall wasn’t sure how his team would hold up.
With a two-game sweep of Emporia to end the regular season on Friday, he got his answer.
Manhattan (11-9) took Game 1 in dominating fashion, 11-1, before coming back in the second game and winning 9-4 to enter the playoffs on a four-game winning streak.
“We’re really proud of the way the girls brought energy after playing three days in a row,” Mall said. “To come out like they did, right off the bat in the first game, they attacked the ball at the plate. To keep their energy after the three days we’ve been through really says something about the girls.”
The Indians never really struggled to keep momentum on their side in the doubleheader, leading most of the afternoon and never facing a deficit of more than a run.
Manhattan also got a solid effort from its two pitchers, Aubrey Jung and Tyler Hoyt, to keep it in the win column.
In Game 1, Manhattan struck early and often, scoring four runs in the first, three in the second and four more in the third to lead 11-0 after three innings.
Emporia helped the cause by committing five errors in that span, allowing the Indians to take extra bases and keep big innings alive.
Jung benefited the most from Emporia’s defensive miscues, reaching safely in all three of her at-bats, with the Spartans misplaying two pop-ups and a groundout.
Defensively, Manhattan was much sounder, committing just one error and getting five strong innings from Jung. The junior allowed just one run and three hits while striking out four and walking none.
“Throwing three days in a row like they did, they just kept saying they feel fine, and I know they do that in the summer, but it’s still a little different,” Mall said of his pitchers. “They did a good job, even when they got in trouble they came back with good pitches and let the defense work behind them.”
The game was rescheduled from April 26, when Emporia made the trip to Manhattan only to be rained out after half an inning. As such, Friday’s opener started in the bottom of the first with the Indians coming to bat.
Offensively, Manhattan batted around in the first inning, with Tyler Hoyt providing a two-RBI single and Alex Perez hitting an RBI single. The Indians also got a run off an Emporia error.
In the second, Jenna Stigge hit an RBI triple and Allie Massanet hit a two-RBI single to stake the Indians to a 7-0 lead.
Manhattan got an RBI triple from Kori Bridegam in the third inning, with Stigge reaching on an infield single and Hoyt driving in a run on a groundout. The Indians’ final run came around on a Spartan error.
In the second game, Manhattan wasn’t able to run-rule the Spartans, but led comfortably after scoring two runs in the fourth and four runs in the fifth to take a 9-2 lead.
Once again, the Emporia defense helped things along, as Manhattan got a pair of unearned runs in the second inning and two more unearned in the fourth.
In the fifth inning, Manhattan got back-to-back RBI singles from Massanet and Madi Fief before a two-RBI double from Perez.
Hoyt allowed four runs on the day, with two coming in the sixth inning with the Indians leading big. She allowed just eight hits and struck out four.
Against Emporia starter Emily Giffin, Manhattan started slow but figured her out the third time through the order.
“Really, we didn’t get as many runs as our hits,” Mall said. “We got a lot of hits, and it took us a while in that second game to adjust where she was throwing the ball, but once the girls figured out what to do, we hit the ball much better. We had two or three times where we had hustle hits where we could have been out but our girls hustled and kept it alive.”
With the regular season now complete, Manhattan will land in the Washburn Rural regional and play fourth-seeded Topeka High (13-7) in the 4 vs. 5 game in Topeka. The winner will advance to play the winner of undefeated Rural (20-0) and eighth-seeded KC Schlagle/Washington (1-11).
Manhattan split the regular-season series with Topeka High, winning 8-7 and losing 6-5, while getting swept by Rural earlier this week, losing 9-1 and 5-0 in a pair of seven-inning games.
“The scores don’t show it that much, but when we played Washburn Rural, we were right with them for most of those games,” Mall said. “It’ll be tough playing Topeka High, because they’re really hitting the ball well right now. That’s what they do late in the season. But we’ll get after them and our pitchers are doing a good job.
“If we can get past them to Washburn Rural, I think we have a great chance to beat them. We just have to hit the ball.”