Manhattan High softball coach Scott Mall planned to start each of his five seniors in Game 1 of Friday’s doubleheader sweep against Highland Park, but ended up only starting four.
Senior Aubrey Jung, his top starting pitcher all season long, didn’t arrive to the softball fields at Anneberg Park until nearly 30 minutes after the first game began.
“The (Advanced Placement) testing was today, and the test before us was scheduled to start earlier, but they were off track by about an hour,” Jung said. “So then we got pushed back an hour, so I had to take an AP statistics test before I came here and then rush to the field. It was kind of sad not starting my last home game, but it worked out.”
In her stead, Sydney Bannister pitched Game 1 for the first time all season, with Jung starting Game 2 as the Indians swept the Scots in a pair of run-rule shortened games, 14-4 and 18-3.
Jung, the winning pitcher in the second game, said the two games were a highlight for the team in an otherwise tough season.
“It was a lot of fun tonight,” she said. “I think this was the most fun we’ve had together as a team. Everyone was positive the whole time which is really good. I’ll miss everyone. It’s been a good year and we’ve had a lot of fun, which is important.”
The Indians got solid effort both at the plate and in the field, securing their first doubleheader sweep of the season against the Scots, who have just two wins on the year, both coming against winless KC Washington.
“I know Highland Park has struggled — so have we,” Mall said. “But I was really happy with the way our girls got up and swung the bat. Sometimes you back off a little bit, but we had maybe one inning each game where we didn’t aggressively go after the ball. So everybody got the chance to hit. We needed a couple of games like this.
“We’ve had so many close games that we haven’t quite pulled out. So it’s nice to have a game like this where they can relax and enjoy themselves and still work on playing good softball.”
Manhattan won Game 1 in six innings behind Bannister’s best performance of the year. The junior allowed four runs on five hits, but struck out 13 and walked none.
Perfect through three innings, Highland Park loaded the bases to start the fourth, but Bannister struck out the side to keep the shutout intact. The next inning, the Scots got four runs on two hits, with Teresa Bayless providing the big hit, smacking a three-RBI double.
“Sydney, this was the first time she’s started the first game, and she pitched great,” Mall said. “She was really hitting her spots well. She had one inning where they hit the ball and one inning where we didn’t play good defense behind her. But she pitched great.”
Manhattan, on the other hand, put up runs in each inning except the second, taking an 8-0 lead through four innings before adding six runs over the final two innings to earn the run-rule win, with Cortney Smith providing the game-ending single in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Savannah Thaemert finished Game 1 4 for 4 at the plate, with three doubles, while Madi Fief was 3 for 3 with a double and a walk. Senior Alex Perez was 2 for 3 with an RBIs, while senior Miranda Hemmert was 2 for 4 with a triple and two RBIs. Senior Amanda Gross finished with three walks.
“Everybody feels good when they get good swings,” Mall said. “We had girls really rip the ball. Sometimes you have trouble in games like that when the pitching is a little bit different speed than you’re used to, but our girls did a good job of adjusting and kept themselves back and drove the ball. Good things happen when we do that.”
In Game 2, Jung found trouble in the top of the first, allowing three straight hits to start the game and quickly allowing the Scots to lead 2-0. But the senior was efficient the rest of the way, allowing another run that reached on an error to go along with two more scoreless innings.
“Aubrey pitched real well the second game,” Mall said. “They hit that first couple in the first inning, but I thought she settled in and really did well.”
Offensively, Manhattan scored 18 runs on 11 hits to end the game in the bottom of the fourth inning. The eight-run fourth was a disaster defensively for the Scots, which committed six errors in the frame as the Indians took advantage, with Hemmert providing the final nail in the coffin, reaching on an error to end the game.
Both Thaemert and Jung were 2 for 4 with a triple and three RBIs in Game 2, while Fief added a double and Perez was 2 for 4 with a pair of RBIs.
Mall said he is impressed with the work ethic of this senior class.
“We have the two of them that have played quite a bit in the past, and the rest of them were all new to varsity, but they keep working hard,” he said. “I think every one of them has gotten better as the season has gone along, and it was nice today when Courtney, who doesn’t get to hit much, got the game-ending hit in the first game, and Miranda got the game-ending hit in the second game. That was nice to see.”
Manhattan travels to Washburn Rural for a doubleheader to end the regular season on Wednesday.