Junction City and the American Legion Manhattan Manko Senior 17ers each collected five hits as a team on Thursday. The problem was the Blue Jays scored five more runs than their opposition, defeating Manko 6-1 in its first game of pool play at the Kansas State University Team Camp at Tointon Family Stadium.
“It’s kind of been the same story,” Manko head coach Luke Snyder said. “We give too many free bases. We gave up six free passes. We have to cut that number in half at least if we expect to be successful.”
Manko starting pitcher Spencer Anderson, who missed last season due to Tommy John Surgery, struggled with his control. The right-hander from Chapman hit three batters while walking two more. Making matters worse was the 17ers’ defense, which struggled to pick Anderson up. Manko made three errors in the game and all three resulted in runs for Junction City.
The Blue Jays took a 2-0 lead after one inning, then added two more runs in the third when a two-out error by Manko opened the door for a rally. Following the defensive miscue, Junction City hit a RBI triple to right and followed it with a RBI double to left-center to take a 4-1 advantage.
Junction City added another run in the fourth without registering a hit. An error by the 17ers was followed by two hit batters to load the bases. Anderson then issued a five-pitch walk, forcing in another run.
Manko, which dropped to 1-5 on the season, struggled offensively, scoring a season-low one run against the left-hander on the hill for the Blue Jays.
“He threw strikes and threw his off-speed pitch for a strike,” Snyder said. “He had us off balance throwing that curve ball consistently for a strike which made his fastball that much more effective.
“We were taking defensive swings the entire game. I can count the number of good swings we took on him on one hand. We just didn’t compete very well at the plate.”
The 17ers picked up their first win of the season on Tuesday in a nine-inning game against the Topeka Stars, something Snyder thought his team would build on. They didn’t, which resulted in disappointment following Thursday’s loss. “I was expecting us to come out a little hungrier,” he said. “I thought we’d be tougher this morning and we weren’t.
“Now we have to fight back. We have to make the other team beat us and we have to compete. And at the plate we have to change some things.”