Leavenworth stays alive, edges 17ers

By Grant Guggisberg

After a pair of strong wins to start its Zone tournament, the American Legion Manhattan Manko senior 17ers missed out on the chance to win in a sweep on Wednesday.

Technically, the game didn’t end until early Thursday morning, as the two teams needed a pair of extra innings to decide a winner. The Leavenworth Diamond Jaxx got the go-ahead double from Judson Cole to score two and win 10-9 in the 11th inning and stay alive for today’s finale with a berth to AAA state on the line.

Manhattan coach Luke Snyder said the 17ers wasted an opportunity.

“The last five innings, they outscored us,” he said. “We blew our opportunities and we had a couple chances to score more runs. We made two baserunning mistakes at third base that cost us runs, and they had the hits with runners in scoring position late in the ballgame.”

Leavenworth was able to complete the rally after scoring two runs off reliever Chris Klug in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings. After a scoreless 10th, Manhattan got a run in the top of the 11th to retake the lead on a Jesse Steinbring single, but gave it right back in the bottom of the frame to give Leavenworth the walkoff victory on Cole’s double.

Manhattan (24-15) saw its 10-game winning streak come to an end, despite starting the game off on the right track.

“I never really had any worries at any point in that game,” Snyder said. “I was confident that we were going to win, and we didn’t make it happen.”

By the third inning, Manhattan had a five-run lead and had chased Leavenworth’s starting pitcher from the game. The Diamond Jaxx also had a pair of players ejected. But Leavenworth was able to start chipping away at the 17ers’ lead, making it 5-3 in the fifth inning and sending Snyder to his bullpen.

Evan Olson came on in relief, pitching a scoreless sixth before allowing three runs in the seventh to trim Manhattan’s lead and make the score 8-6, which prompted Snyder to go to Klug to finish out the game.

“We started yesterday’s ballgame as well as you could start a ballgame,” Snyder said. “In the first three innings, we had a 5-0 lead, their starting pitcher was out of the game, they had two players ejected from the game. Everything was in our favor, everything was going our way, but we gave them some chances and they took advantage. All of the sudden they started thinking they could win again.”

Klug had the chance to end it with two outs and two on in the ninth, but walked a batter to load the bases before allowing a single to score two. The 17er defense threw out a baserunner trying to go first to third on the play to end the inning and stay alive for extra innings.

Offensively, Manhattan smacked 17 hits on the day. Kellen Myers was 3 for 5 with two doubles, while Chris Klug was 5 for 6 and Steinbring was 3 for 6 with a double.

Looking forward, Manhattan will now face its first elimination game of the Legion postseason in a rematch with the Diamond Jaxx.

Mike Leeper is likely to get the start, but in a nine-inning game format, relief help will be key.

“We have Mike Leeper,” Snyder said of his now-depleted pitching staff. “Past that, I have no idea at this point. If they tell me they’re good enough to throw, they’ll probably be in there in relief.

“It’s just a matter of who wants it, and who can play for nine innings and keep their head on their shoulders.”

The Diamond Jaxx defeated Atchison 6-4 earlier in the day to earn the right to play Manhattan on Wednesday.

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