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Manko Jrs. split at Salina

By Brady Bauman

It was a long Tuesday night for the American Legion Manhattan Manko Junior 17ers on the road in Salina, but the American Legion squad ended it on a high note.

Manko was run-ruled in the first game of the double header 12-4 in five innings, but rebounded in the night cap with a 11-10 win after holding off a late Salina charge.

“The poise I talked about after (the season opening) Tournament of Champions showed up (in the second game),” 17ers head coach Dan Rumsey said. “I know they have it. It’s just a matter of getting that confidence back from their defense and at the plate, because when they think they are a great team they play great and are hard to beat, but when they doubt themselves they tend to fall behind and stay behind.

“But tonight they were able to get that lead back and then hold off a rally in the seventh.”

In the win, Manko ended the first with a 2-1 lead, but fell behind after a three-run bottom of the third by Salina.

A single by outfielder Jake Olson and errors by the Salina defense allowed Manhattan to tie the game 4-all in the top of the fourth, but the Eagles wouldn’t let that stand for long and came out swinging in the bottom of the frame.

Salina started with two doubles, a single, and a hit-by-pitch, and just like that, the contest went into the fifth inning with the Eagles leading 8-4.

Still, Manko fought back, and did it with cooler heads prevailing.

Manhattan’s first three batters to start the fifth inning drew walks and four out of the next five did exactly the same. Even the exception in that list, who struck out, took all his pitches looking. A RBI single by A.J. Epperson broke the 8-8 tie and teammate Henry deNoble added another run.

A sacrifice by Issac Leon added another run for Manko in the top of the seventh, and although Salina was able to add runs in the bottom of the inning, the Eagles fell one short of sending the contest in extra innings.

Jake Olson started the game on the mound for the 17ers and went three innings allowing four runs – three earned – off five hits with two walks and two strikeouts. Eric Prockish relieved Olson and threw during the fourth inning, giving up four runs on five hits with a walk and a strikeout, while deNoble closed the game’s final three innings and allowed two runs – one earned – on three hits with two walks and six strikeouts. The win went to deNoble, his third of the year.

Epperson led the offense for Manko in game two, going 1-for-2 with an RBI and three walks drawn.

In the opening game, Manhattan fell into an early 7-1 hole after the second inning. Although the 17ers managed three runs in the top of the third, Salina added two more in the bottom of the inning and Manhattan couldn’t find an answer the rest of the way.

Rumsey was glad his team was able to end the night on a high note, though, after game two.

“I told them after the game it was better to drive an hour back home on a ‘W’, rather than being swept,” Rumsey said. “They should cherish that ‘W’ for tonight, but be ready for practice tomorrow.”

Manhattan will return to play this weekend for a tournament in Wamego, which will begin Friday night at 6 p.m. for the 17ers against Royal Valley.

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