When the Manhattan High baseball team arrives at Hoglund Ballpark in Lawrence for its second consecutive state tournament appearance on Thursday, the team will see some familiar faces in the opposing dugout.
The Indians will face Olathe South in Thursday’s opener. It was the Falcons who beat Manhattan in last year’s third-place game at state, ending the Indians’ season with a 10-3 loss.
“They beat us in that game and they return a lot of guys,” Manhattan coach Don Hess said. “They have a young man going to Arkansas State and another going to Central Missouri.
Hess said this year’s matchup against Olathe South (16-5) will be different than last year’s.
“What we do know about them, which is not a whole lot, is they return a lot of offense,” he said. “Their defense is solid. We don’t know much about their pitching — don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing. But they return a lot of guys from a year ago and obviously I think they’re one of the top two or three teams in the state.”
Hess said Manhattan (16-5) will go with Henry de Noble in the opener after the junior pitched a two-hitter in the regional final and a no-hitter in his start before that against Washburn Rural.
“You have to win the first one before you can get to the second one,” Hess said. “Henry’s been our best this year, so we’ll throw him out there and hopefully he’ll have another good outing and help us get through to the next round.”
Should the Indians advance, they’d get the winner of top-seeded Wichita Heights (19-3) and No. 8 Derby (9-11).
Manhattan won the coin flip to earn the four seed over the Falcons, which could play a factor in the late innings if the Indians are fortunate enough to be in the lead.
“The advantage of being the higher seed is you get to be the home team,” Hess said “Which is a nice bonus when you get down to the end of the game.”
Hess said he hopes his team, despite limited practice time this week, will be ready when it steps on the field in Lawrence on Thursday.
“We just don’t know,” he said. “The guys are loose, but at the same time I think they’re focused. They’re having fun and they definitely feel like they’ve accomplished something up to this point, but there’s a lot left in the tank to accomplish more.”
Manhattan plays in the second of four games on Thursday, scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. If they advance, they’ll be guaranteed two games Friday.