It’s not often the Manhattan High softball team has the chance to play a tripleheader.
While the win-loss column indicates only two games were played Friday night between Manhattan and Hayden at the Twin Oaks Softball Complex, players, coaches and fans got to experience an entire extra game’s worth of extra innings in the first game.
Manhattan (2-2, 2-2 Centennial) managed to win that 14-inning marathon in walk-off fashion, 7-6, but couldn’t keep the momentum in their favor in the second game, falling 7-1 to Hayden.
Manhattan coach Scott Mall said he was disappointed the energy and enthusiasm from game one didn’t carry over.
“It seemed like we lost our spark a little, maybe we lost our focus,” Mall said. “But we weren’t as sharp at the plate as we needed to be in the second game.”
After 14 long innings on a blustery day at Anneberg Park, the ending to game one proved to inspire the Wildcats.
Manhattan’s Alex Perez was the hero in game one, delivering the game-winning hit in the bottom of the 14th inning with the bases loaded. Perez hit a ground ball to Hayden shortstop Bree Schmidt that was bobbled, with the resulting throw late and offline. That allowed Jenna Stigge to score with Allie Massanet following right behind, giving the Indians the walkoff victory.
The game was tied at 4 after the seventh inning and stayed that way until the 14th. After seven straight scoreless innings by both teams, Hayden opened the 14th with four hits and a pair of runs off Manhattan starter Aubrey Jung. But the Indians answered in the bottom half, with Massanet hitting an RBI single to make it a one-run game before Perez’s game-winner.
Jung was able to preserve the win for Manhattan despite giving up 19 hits and seven runs. The junior was able to scatter the majority of those hits, with Hayden leaving 12 on base.
Offensively, the Indians couldn’t string together enough hits to earn the walkoff sooner, though they finished the game with 16. They left 11 on base in a game where runs were at a premium.
Manhattan got on the board early in the game, scoring two runs in the first inning off Hayden pitcher Hayley Banister. Kylie Smith led off the game with a walk and an error put Kori Bridegam on base behind her. After a Tyler Hoyt sac bunt moved them over, Jung got a pair of RBIs on her single.
But Hayden answered right back, getting a run in the second inning and adding three more in the fourth after a leadoff triple by Samantha Shafer and three singles to follow.
The Wildcats held the 4-2 lead until the bottom of the sixth, when Manhattan got a pair of runs off a Perez sac fly and an RBI single by Thaemert that just beat the throw to first to tie the score at 4 and send the game to extras after a scoreless seventh.
“We hung in there,” Mall said. “I was really proud of the girls the way we rallied in that last inning. We kept hanging in there, they had chances throughout parts of the game and we made big plays when they had good chances.”
“To go down two in the top of the 14th, it would have been really easy to say ‘Oh man’, but they made some mistakes and we kept scrapping and putting the ball in play trying to make something happen and it worked out for us.”
In game two, Manhattan starter Tyler Hoyt gave up a pair of runs in the first inning on a single by Hayden’s Katie Flynn. Manhattan answered in the bottom of the frame, scoring a single run on an RBI single by Stigge, but only mustered two hits the rest of the game against Hayden starter Amanda Evans while Hayden piled up seven runs against Hoyt. Evans only had two strikeouts, but was able to induce 12 fly-ball outs against the Indians, almost all of which got were easy to catch after getting hung up in the wind.
“There were a lot of hard-hit balls on both sides that normally fall in that didn’t because they hung up in the air,” Mall said. “In the spring you have to get used to that because the wind is going to blow most nights.”
Mall said he was most disappointed in the Manhattan defense, which gave up six errors.
“They were hitting well and we doubled their hits by not making plays,” he said. “We play out here in practice, and we have good fielders — I know we do — and they came out here and we just didn’t make the plays we need to make. And at that plate, we got some early hits and then nothing after that.”
Fatigue may have been an issue for Manhattan, though Mall said that shouldn’t be an excuse.
“We need to build off of that first game,” he said. “That’s what we talked about between games - we can’t rely on that first game, but we need to build off that emotion we had in the first game.
“We had some hard-hit balls that went right at people, and they caught them. Sometimes those start a slump more than a blooper that falls in. Maybe that had something to do with it, but at the plate we weren’t anything like we have been and like we can be.”
Manhattan travels to Shawnee Heights for a doubleheader on Friday.