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Junior 17ers go 2-2 in Kansas City

By Brady Bauman

The Manhattan Manko 17-and under 17ers came out even from the 3and2 Wood Bat Tournament hosted in Kansas City over the weekend.

The 17ers finished the tournament 2-2 and according to head coach Dan Rumsey, his team started strong, but ended the weekend on a sour note.

“We started off our tournament well,” Rumsey said Sunday. “We played very well in the first two games and then in the last two, we just did a complete 180.

“Pitching went well the whole weekend, but our defense struggled in the last two games and gave up some unearned runs, which gave the other team an edge.”

Manko (4-5) opened the tournament with a 10-3 win Friday against Emporia and followed it with a 6-3 victory Saturday against the Ticket Solutions Tigers. The later Saturday game was the speed bump, though, and Manhattan lost 8-1 to the Raiders. Sunday, in the championship bracket, Manko was taken out by the MWTSC Red Sox, who won 8-3.

“We found some things to work on, as always,” Rumsey said. “But we had some positives. Our pitchers threw really well and threw strikes like we wanted them to.”

In the opening win against Emporia, Manhattan led 6-0 after two innings and cruised the rest of the way. A.J. Epperson was 3-for-5 with four RBIs to lead the offense and starting pitcher Henry deNoble got the win on the mound for Manko. It was deNoble’s second victory of the year on the hill and he allowed three runs – two earned – on three hits through four innings of work. He walked five and struck out four.

Against the Tigers early Saturday, the 17ers broke a 2-2 tie in the top of the sixth with a three-run inning that gave Manko the lead and eventual win. Manhattan took advantage of errors by the Tigers’ defense in the inning and a 2-for-2 game from Eric Prockish gave the 17ers’ offense confidence. Eric Olson threw a complete game on the mound for Manko and allowed three runs on five hits with two walks and two strikeouts.

Rumsey said it was a highlight game of the weekend for Manhattan.

“Our game against the Tigers was our best of the tournament,” he said. “(It) was one of those games that was exciting to be a part of and to watch.”

But the tide turned against Manhattan in the last two games.

While the contest against the Raiders was scoreless for the first three innings, Manko’s opposition came alive in the top of the fourth with base hits and reaching on two errors by the 17ers’ defense. The Raiders scored four runs and added two more in the fifth and sixth. Manhattan was held to just one hit for the game.

Finally, in the championship bracket game against the Red Sox, Manko was close throughout most of the game but a four-run top of the sixth widened a gap that was previously just a 3-2 lead. Manhattan couldn’t recover.

“We hit the ball really well with the wood bats the first two games,” Rumsey said, “but we cooled off late. Once you know what you are trying to do, you start over-analyzing it, and start pressing more.”

The 17ers will return to the diamond Tuesday with a double-header in Salina.

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