MHS baseball sweeps rival Junction City

By Grant Guggisberg

It was a relatively short trip, but the 30-minute drive to Junction City was still enough to change the routine of the Manhattan High baseball team on Tuesday.

After a slow start in Game 1, the Indians finally got the offense going, turning a one-run deficit into a 6-3 win before getting the run-rule victory in the nightcap, 12-2.

MHS head coach Don Hess said the team still has to get better at being ready to play from the first pitch of its games.

“Sometimes when you go on the road, you get off the bus and you’re out of your routine,” he said. “We talk all the time about being ready to hit from the first pitch, and it seems sometimes that it takes us one time through the order before we’re comfortable.

“We weren’t taking good swings at the ball, and once we did start doing that and putting some pressure on the defense, things worked out for us.”

With four games this week, Hess turned to Jacob Biller to pitch against the Blue Jays. The senior responded well, going 6 1/3 innings and striking out eight while allowing just two runs to get the win.

“He had kind of a slow, rougher first inning, but Jake went out there and did a really nice job,” Hess said. “He kept us in the ballgame until our bats woke up.”

After seeing Junction City retake the lead on a solo home run by Trae McDaniel in the bottom of the fourth, MHS put up four runs in the top of the fifth with the help of a struggling Junction City defense that committed five errors in the game.

With two outs, the Indians reached on a dropped third strike, then again on an error by the shortstop, with both runners moving up on a passed ball. Garrett Francis reached base on another error by the shortstop to score a run, before a second passed ball allowed another run to score.

Jonah Webber and Jacob Biller each came up with RBI singles to cap the rally and give Manhattan a 5-3 lead.

The Indians got an extra run in the sixth with Mike Leeper driving in Kellen Myers with a triple.

Junction City got a small rally going in the seventh inning, but Jesse Steinbring came on in relief of Biller and got the final two outs.

In Game 2, offense came easy from the start, as Manhattan put up five runs in the top of the first to set the tone while scoring in every inning except the fifth in the run-rule victory.

Ethan Fabrizius got the start for MHS and pitched four innings while allowing only one earned run. Evan Olson pitched 2/3 of an inning in relief before Connor Brown got the last out.

“Sometimes the innings for the pitchers have been tough to come by, but they all three went in and did a really nice job for us,” Hess said. “And it’s going to take all of the pitchers on our staff for us to achieve the things we want.”

Offensively, MHS got 11 hits, including three extra-base hits, in the win. Fehr, Leeper, A.J. Epperson and Tyler Wohler all had two-hit games, while Fehr and Webber each had two RBIs.

“I think that’s the first time we’ve scored 10 runs in a game this year,” Hess said. “We had some guys whose bats came alive, and we had some extra base hits too, which is nice to see… Hopefully we’re making strides in that area.”

Manhattan hosts Topeka West on Friday at Norvell Field, with the first pitch scheduled for 4 p.m.

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