The American Legion Manhattan Manko Senior 17ers lost their fourth straight game to begin the season on Saturday. But rather than allowing frustration to set in, Luke Snyder’s message to his team was simple: It’s time to get on the practice field and outwork the competition.
“We have to be tough,” said Snyder, the head coach of the Senior squad. “We’re going to have to get on that practice field and make sure we get better. We have two weeks off and we have to take advantage of that time off and get after it.”
The 17ers were defeated 9-3 by St. Joe Post 11 at Tointon Family Stadium Saturday, as Manko was eliminated from championship contention in the Tournament of Champions in Manhattan.
It looked early on like Manko, one of the youngest senior teams in the state, would collect its first win of the season. The 17ers led 3-0 after 1 1/2 innings. But Post 11 scored one run in the second, then added four more in the third and another three in the fourth inning to take control.
“We did some good things today but when we had our opportunities to take control of the game we didn’t take advantage of that opportunity,” Snyder said. “We let it slip away. There comes a time somebody has to step up and do something about it.”
Post 11 racked up 11 hits while Manhattan recorded 10 hits. But the biggest difference between the two teams was command of the strike zone. Manko threw 65 balls compared to 63 strikes, walked six batters and hit another one, while Post 11 issued just two free passes on the day.
“Our pitchers gave some free bases away and we can’t do that,” Snyder said.
“Any time you get free bases, whether it be a one-out walk or two-out walks, it doesn’t matter, you have to make them earn it. And we didn’t do that.”
On the offensive side of things, Snyder said his team got impatient at the plate after scoring three runs in the first two innings.
“We started swinging at pitches we shouldn’t be swinging at and we took the pressure off of them,” he said. “We didn’t make them beat us, we took the pressure off and we did it to ourselves.”
Brett Fehr, who started the game on the mound for Manko, allowed four runs on three hits and three walks in 2 1/3 innings of work. Trey Schultz relieved Fehr in the third, but struggled, yielding three runs on four hits and two walks. Ethan Fabrizius and Andrew Leary combined to allow just one run in the final three innings of play.
Fehr went 3-for-4 at the plate with a triple, an RBI and two stolen bases. Jonah Webber added two hits to go along with two RBIs.
Despite the loss, Snyder said he saw some things he liked from his team during its three days at the Tournament of Champions.
“We did a lot of good things this weekend, we just were unable to piece together a seven-inning game,” he said. “We have nothing to hang our head about yet. We just have to learn from our mistakes and move forward. If we hang our heads — if we don’t learn from our mistakes then it’s going to be a long, frustrating summer. We have to build on the good.”
And that building process starts at practice.
“Every summer we’ve spent a lot of time out on those practice fields,” Snyder said. “We’ve donated a lot of sweat and a lot of blood to those fields. And this year can’t be any different. We have to get after it and have to take advantage of practice time. We have to use that time to get better.”