The American Legion Manhattan Manko junior 17ers have struggled at times this season, despite the efforts of Jake Olson’s hot bat.
Olson has been on a tear with the 17ers in his second season on the junior squad. He currently boasts a team-best .426 batting average. Olson also leads the 17ers with 29 hits and is tied for the team-lead in RBIs with 17.
“First off, he’s getting a lot more playing time since last year,” 17ers head coach Dan Rumsey said. “He’s doubled the amount of games he’s seen already.
“Jake started hot (this summer) and hit the ball real well. He’s just continued that and has put more contact on the ball. He had a good swing last year, he was just swinging over the ball or barely missing.”
Olson, who moved from right field to center field this summer, said the difference has been his ability to pick up things quicker.
“It’s just about how to learn from your coach better with the experience you have,” Olson said. “You just become more relaxed and confident in yourself.”
Olson also said a little extra work goes a long ways, too.
“I worked on (my swing) a lot in the winter and in batting cages and stuff like that,” he said. “I feel like I’m batting twice as good as I was last year.
“I load my hands a lot earlier, put my foot down earlier and try to keep a flat back more than I did last year. (My eyes) feel better, too. You’re used to the pitching more and you just see the ball better, and that helps a lot.”
The 17ers (6-16) are a younger team this summer than they’ve been in the past. Olson, who’s played baseball since his tee-ball days and also plays football, said the team has become closer since the beginning of the summer.
“I think we’ve gotten to know the freshmen more,” he said. “So, we’ve become more of a team and we play together, and they’ve learned more about what to do in game situations. We’ve grown, but we can still be a lot better.”
Rumsey said Olson has been a hitter he’s been able to count on all summer.
“It’s very important,” Rumsey said. “He’s our leadoff, so you want your best hitter getting the most ABs. It’s very vital to our success to always have that one bat in your lineup that can at least put that ball in play and hopefully cause distractions on the base paths.”
17ers traveling to South Dakota
The 17ers will be enjoying a summer road trip this weekend as Manhattan gets set to participate in the Sioux Falls Classic in Sioux Falls, S.D.
There will be four pools with a total of 16 teams in competition. The 17ers begin their pool play Friday night at 7 (CST) against Sleepy Eye, an American Legion club from Minnesota. Manhattan will continue play Saturday with a 2:30 p.m. contest against Mitchell, S.D., and will conclude the day with a 5 p.m. matchup against Sioux Falls West.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Rumsey said. “It’s something we scheduled earlier in the year and we thought it would be a nice opportunity for the kids to get out of the state and see some other places and face some different teams.
“Getting out of town is always fun for those guys. It gives them a little relief and a little vacation time, and (assistant) coach (Dillon) Mack and I are excited, too.”
This weekend’s games will be the last games of the regular season for the 17ers, as they are set to begin play in the Zone tournament on Monday in Marysville.