Junior 17ers ready for tournament

By Brady Bauman

The American Legion Manhattan Manko Junior 17ers go into this weekend’s tournament in Kansas City with games under their belts and good vibes.

The 17ers opened the summer season last weekend at home with a semifinal appearance in the Tournament of Champions at Tointon Family Stadium.

Manhattan will begin this weekend’s tournament, which is hosted by Kansas City’s 3and2 baseball club, at 7:15 p.m. tonight. Saturday’s play will resume with games at 5 p.m. and then another 7:15 contest following. Championship bracket play will be Sunday.

“We’re pretty confident,” 17ers coach Dan Rumsey said. “We had an alright showing last weekend and (assistant coach Dillon Mack) and I have a much better feel of who we can put out there to get the most runs and we are confident on defense.

“Pitching-wise, we saw a lot of arms and everyone is different. They all have different pitching styles and arm speeds. We have some solid guys.”

Manko goes into this weekend 2-3 overall after their showing in the TOC last weekend. The 17ers opened the tournament with a 4-3 win against the Salina Hawks Thursday and then lost back-to-back games the next day against Junction City 9-8 and Blue Valley NW 5-3. Manhattan rebounded Saturday against the Boulder (Colo.) Panthers with a 9-1 win.

The 2-2 start put the 17ers in the championship bracket, but they were dominated in the semifinal against Blue Valley in a 12-2 defeat.

Still, Rumsey said the team gained a lot out of the weekend, and that early strengths were found.

“We’re poised, overall – offensively and defensively,” Rumsey said. “It’s a big step from last year, and even if we were down in games last week, we were always staying in the games and battling back. Our poise at the plate, our poise defensively and on the mound are some strengths going into this weekend.”

After five games Athen Martinez, who was the lead-off batter last weekend, is leading the Manko bats with a .455 average, while Henry deNoble and Sterling Shimp are second in batting with an average of .444.

Pitcher Conner Brown has an ERA of 1.17 through six innings of work, which leads the team in ERA and ties for innings pitched. He and deNoble – who has pitched three innings – possess both wins for the pitching staff.

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