The American Legion Manhattan Manko Junior 17ers opened its season Thursday night in the Tournament of Champions and did so in text-book fashion.
The 17ers defeated the Salina Hawks 4-3 at Tointon Family Stadium, and for a team that only got in three practices before hand, head coach Dan Rumsey was pleased with his team’s polish.
“It’s great to get the first win under our belts and to take the pressure off,” Rumsey said. “We didn’t really know what type of team we would be (going into tonight), but they showed a lot of poise out there and I’m really proud of them.”
Pitchers Evan Olson and Henry deNoble led the way for Manko.
Olson started the game and threw the first four innings, while deNoble came in relief in the fifth and went the rest of the way, earning the win.
Olson allowed three runs on two hits, walked four and struck out three. DeNoble gave up no runs, one hit, walked none and tallied four strikeouts in three innings of work.
“We were confident in both arms,” Rumsey said. “That’s why we threw them tonight. We knew Salina had some good sticks in their lineup and we held them.
“Evan and deNoble did what we asked them to do. They threw a lot of strikes and got people out, so they did a wonderful job on the mound.”
Both teams began the game running quickly through batting orders in the first three innings, but the climate changed in the top of the fourth when the Hawks took advantage of Manko mistakes.
Salina began the order with a single to left and after a ground-out to the shortstop, the Hawks got on the scoreboard with another single. After a Salina batter drew a walk, passed balls and wild pitches brought in two more runs to give the Hawks a 3-1 lead.
Salina was able to draw two more walks after the fact, but a force-out at third from a thrown strike ended the Hawks’ half of the fourth.
In the bottom of the frame, Manhattan narrowed the gap with an RBI-single by left fielder Luke Stegeman, but it was in the bottom of the sixth that the 17ers took the game.
First baseman Tyler Wohler began the order with a walk and deNoble answered with a single up the middle. While the Hawks took down the next two batters with strikeouts, Manhattan didn’t flinch and plated two runs during Garrett Francis’ at-bat due to wild pitches from the Salina mound.
Francis drew a walk and Athen Martinez — back to the top of the order — singled. Ian Hart battled for a walk next, but the Hawks pitching came through with a strikeout during the next at-bat to end the inning.
Manko closed the top of the seventh with a ground-out, a strikeout, a passed ball, and finally, another strikeout — this time looking.
“It helps when the defense plays well behind the pitchers,” Rumsey said about his team’s overall defensive performance. “It gives the pitchers confidence on the mound and reinforces the fielder’s confidence that they are making plays.”
Offensively, Rumsey said his team was opportunistic.
“We had guys in the top of lineup we knew we could get runs with,” he said. “Going into the bottom of the sixth, you are down one and you are looking to tie or go ahead and force, but when you get those two runs to put yourself ahead, and make things easier going into the top of the seventh, you don’t have to try and hold people, and our pitchers can go out there and pitch.”
MANKO 4, SALINA 3
Salina 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 — 3 3 0
Manhattan 0 0 1 1 0 2 X — 4 6 1
WP — deNoble. LP — Rowe.