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Salina edges 17ers in KGS semifinals

By Grant Guggisberg

A struggling offense still adjusting to a different hitting approach under new coach Steve Disbrow has made things tough on the American Legion Manhattan Manko senior 17ers’ pitching staff at times this summer.

In Sunday’s matchup against the hometown Salina Falcons in the semifinals of the Kansas Grand Slam tournament, offense was not the problem.

Manhattan exploded for 11 runs on 17 hits, but ended up losing a back-and-forth battle with the Falcons in extra innings, 12-11, to end its tournament run.

Salina went on to lose in the championship game, 13-2, to Millard (Neb.) North.

“It was a really fun game to be a part of,” assistant coach Ryan Wilkinson said. “Both teams were hitting everything.”

The 17ers got one of its best offensive performances of the summer season, with five players logging multi-hit games. Trace Nelson led the way again for Manhattan, hitting a two-run home run and a bases-loaded triple to conclude a breakout weekend in Salina with a four-hit game.

Garrett Francis, AJ Epperson and Ian Hart each had two-hit games, while Grant Munsen logged three hits.

After allowing two runs in the top of the first, Manhattan’s offense got started quickly, batting around in the bottom of the first inning, with Nelson’s two-run homer doing the most damage while giving the 17ers a 4-2 lead.

Salina went on to tie it, however, with two runs in the second inning. After three complete innings, the score was tied at 7-7, before Salina took the lead with two runs in the top of the fourth.

It seemed to be getting away from the 17ers a bit after they allowed a pair of single runs in the top of the fifth and sixth innings, but Manhattan put up four runs in the bottom of the sixth to once again knot up the score.

Wes Whitney and Hart each walked to start the big inning, with Francis reaching on an infield single to load the bases for Nelson, who came up with a line drive to the gap in left-center for a three-RBI triple. Epperson drove him in with a sacrifice fly in the next at-bat to tie the game.

Tied at 11, Manhattan got a leadoff double from Darien Stokes to start the bottom of the seventh inning, but stranded him at third base to leave the game tied.

Salina got a leadoff double in the eighth, with a single to right field scoring the run two batters later.

Needing a run to keep playing, the 17ers got singles from Nelson and Epperson with no outs in the bottom of the eighth, but made outs in their next three at-bats to end the game.

“We had a great chance to win it there in the bottom of the seventh,” Wilkinson said. “But I’m really proud of the way the guys played all weekend. We really competed and played the best baseball we’ve played all summer. If we continue to play this way, it should be a fun last month of the season for the guys.”

Broadwater took the loss in relief, allowing two hits and one run in 2 2/3 innings of work, while Salina’s Connor Boyer got the win on the mound in two innings of relief.

Isaac Leon started for the 17ers, lasting four innings on a day when both offenses were firing on all cylinders.

The 17ers travel to Kansas City on Tuesday to face the KC Bullets in their wood-bat league midweek game, before playing in this weekend’s Great Plains Shootout, which is split between Kansas State’s Tointon Family Stadium and Topeka’s Hummer Sports Park.

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