Through three games at the Kansas State showcase this weekend, the American Legion Manhattan Manko senior 17ers have let pitching and defense lead the way, and the returns have been positive.
With a 3-0 record and just four runs allowed on the weekend, all of which came in the final inning of a blowout victory, the 17ers have been playing good baseball and are cleaning things up at the right time. After this weekend’s games wrap up, the 17ers host Emporia and travel to one more showcase next weekend before the Legion Zone tournament in Leavenworth, July 26-28.
“We haven’t given up hardly any runs,” Manhattan coach Luke Snyder said. “When the other team doesn’t score, it’s hard to get beat.”
In Saturday’s second game, Manhattan got a 4-0 victory over the Kansas City Sports Club Blaze, getting a complete-game shutout by starter Jesse Steinbring and used a three-run first inning to set the tone early.
Steinbring allowed just three hits and struck out four and had his most troublesome inning in the top of the first.
“He was hitting his spots,” Snyder said. “He was having trouble at the beginning of the game gripping the ball, and he took that towel out there with him and I think that helped. When you put up three in the first, that takes some pressure off the pitching and defense. Jesse was good, that’s what we expect out of him.”
Kellen Myers led off the game with a double and ended up on third after a throwing error on the play. Jonah Webber followed with an RBI single, with Josh Mullin walking to put runners on first and second with nobody out. Both runners moved up on a wild pitch and Josh and Chris Klug proceeded to each groundout to the shortstop to score runs, giving Manhattan a 3-0 lead that would prove to be more than enough run support.
The 17ers would add an insurance run in the fourth on Grant Herpich’s bases-loaded groundout to first base.
Snyder said he was pleased with the way his team is executing at the plate, despite not getting much in the way of extra-base hits.
“That’s what our team does,” Snyder said. “We run the bases pretty well, we have some speed. The hit-and-run, stolen bases, bunts, reading balls in the dirt — that’s our game. Right now we’re doing our job at the plate.
“Our hitters didn’t try to do too much. They put a good swing on it and hit it up the middle. It was good, fundamental baseball.”
Early in the day Saturday, Manhattan got a run-rule victory over Kansas City-based Millhouse, 12-4 in five innings.
The 17ers managed to put up runs in each inning except the second, scoring four quick runs in the top of the first to set the tone immediately.
Starter Chris Klug went three innings allowing no runs on three hits with three strikeouts in earning the win. Conner Brown came on in relief and pitched the final two innings, allowing four runs on three hits with three walks and a strikeout.
“Chris today was just filling it up with strikes,” Snyder said. “He was his normal self out there on the mound, he threw it across the plate and let the defense work behind him. They scratched a couple across on Conner late in the game, but he was pitching with the big lead.”
Manhattan was able to capitalize on control issues by the Millhouse starting pitcher, drawing six walks in his three innings pitched. Paired with five hits, the 17ers scored seven runs in the first two innings to build a sizeable lead.
Five runs in the final two innings ended any chance of a comeback for Millhouse, even after they got on the board in the bottom of the fifth with four runs.
Manhattan’s lone extra-base hit came from Steinbring, who hit a double and ended the day 2 for 2, while Mullin was 2 for 3 with four RBIs.
Manhattan (18-14) plays two games today to conclude the KSU showcase, starting with the Wichita Reds at the Eisenhower Baseball Complex at 11:15 a.m. and ending with the Andrew County (Mo.) Kings at 2 p.m. in Wamego, assuming the first game runs on time.
KC FORCE 0
The 17ers used a four-run third inning to put the game away against the KC Force in the weekend opener on Friday.
Josh Klug opened the frame with a double, with a walk by Mullin and a single by Chris Klug loaded the bases for Webber. Webber’s fielder’s choice to the shortstop scored the first run, while Dustan Whipple’s two-run single a batter later made it 3-0. Herpich finished off the scoring with an RBI single.
Manhattan added an insurance run in the sixth with an RBI single by Mullin.
Mike Leeper got the start on the mound and went five innings of one-hit, shutout ball despite struggling with command. Leeper struck out five but walked eight Force batters.
“Leeper in Game 1 battled,” Snyder said. “He didn’t have his best stuff, but he battled and he made the big pitches he had to make.”
Evan Olson came on in relief and pitched the final two innings, allowing four hits but no runs to preserve the shutout victory.