In a season filled with games against select teams that recruit their areas best talent, the American Legion Manhattan Manko senior 17ers are back to strictly playing legion ball.
The early returns are encouraging.
Manhattan won its zone opener easily, defeating Atchison 19-9 in a game that saw them take a 13-0 lead before running into trouble late.
With the win, the 17ers advance to tonight’s game at 8 against the Leavenworth Diamond Jaxx, who got a forfeit win over crosstown rival Leavenworth Geiger Ready-Mix when the team couldn’t field enough players to compete. Atchison and Leavenworth GRM are slated to play an elimination game at 6 p.m.
Manhattan (23-14) won its ninth straight game in dominating fashion, taking a 9-0 lead after two innings and adding to it in the fourth to lead 13-0.
The 17ers pounded Atchison starter Cody Calhoon in the top of the second, logging eight hits in the inning and drawing a pair of walks as they continued to circle the bases. Jesse Steinbring led off with a double as the first seven 17er batters reached base safely. Chris Klug hit a two-RBI double and Jonah Webber plated two on a single, while Kellen Myers and Dustan Whipple each had RBIs. Alex Huerta came to the plate twice in the inning, hitting RBI singles both times.
In the fourth, back-to-back doubles by Whipple and Steinbring got the offense going again, with Josh Klug and Chris Klug also hitting doubles to give Manhattan four extra-base hits in the inning. The 17ers also scored a run off a balk.
But Atchison didn’t fold, plating seven runs in the fifth after starter Chris Klug came out of the game after four scoreless innings. Garrett Francis came on in relief to start the fifth and struggled with command, walking the bases loaded before giving way to Conner Brown.
Brown allowed all three inherited runners to score before getting the first out of the inning on a three-pitch strikeout, but gave up a bases-loaded triple to Atchison’s Jimmy Priest to make it 13-6. Atchison would score a final run on a passed ball to make it 13-7 heading into the sixth.
Brown stayed on the mound in the sixth and got a couple quick outs, but walked two in the inning, both of which scored on a double by Atchison’s Lane Fry.
Ethan Fabrizius came on in relief and got the final out of the sixth, before finishing out the game with a big lead in the seventh.
Manhattan added to its lead in the top of the seventh with six runs on four hits, while taking advantage of two walks and three hit batters in the inning.