Senior 17ers drop two in Oklahoma City

By Grant Guggisberg

The American Legion Manhattan Manko senior 17ers had a tough opening day of pool play in Oklahoma City on Thursday, dropping a pair of games.

They lost their tournament opener 10-5 to the Oklahoma City Drillers.

Manhattan (5-6) couldn’t get out of a disastrous second inning in its opener against the Drillers, allowing seven runs on five hits while the defense committed three of its four errors to make things tough on starter Jesse Steinbring.

“We just lost our focus,” Manhattan coach Luke Snyder said. “That’s been a problem we’ve had this season. One mistake has had a major impact on us. One mistake leads to two, two leads to three and four, and that’s what happened. That second inning, it was almost like the game was being played too fast for us to handle.

“You put that inning aside, we played good baseball. But unfortunately we let those mistakes get to us and we lost our composure and it cost us the ballgame.”

Facing a 7-0 deficit, the 17ers responded with a four-run inning in the top of the third to trim the Driller lead to three, but would score only one more run in the game in the top of the seventh.

Manhattan got its four runs after Kellen Myers and Josh Klug each drew walks to leadoff the inning. Josh Mullin’s RBI single scored a run, while Dustan Whipple reaching on a dropped third strike allowed a second run to come across. Mullin was able to cross home plate on an error by the Drillers’ pitcher, with the final run coming across as Whipple stole home after Grant Herpich stole second.

Pitcher Conner Brown allowed a three-run inning to the Drillers in the sixth in what would end as a forgettable game for the 17ers.

Facing Westmoore (Okla.) in the second game, the 17ers were able to limit their mistakes and play more competitively, but ultimately couldn’t hold the lead it built in the early innings, falling 5-3 to drop to 0-2 in pool play.

After starter Mike Leeper allowed a run to start the game, Manhattan answered with three runs in the bottom of the first to take its first lead of the tournament. The 17ers started with back-to-back singles by Myers and Josh Klug, with Mullin moving Myers over on a sacrifice fly and Leeper driving him in with a groundout to the shortstop. Chris Klug’s RBI double and Whipple’s RBI single made it 3-1 Manhattan.

Westmoore got two runs in the second inning to tie the game before taking the lead with a single run in the third to lead 4-3. No team would score again until the seventh, when Westmoore scored an insurance run before winning 5-3.

“I thought we bounced back pretty well,” Snyder said. “We came out in game two and put up three runs in the first inning. But again, we failed to play a seven-inning ballgame. We know we’re here to play seven innings, but right now we’re failing to do it.”

Knowing they needed to win their pool to make it through to the championship bracket, the 17ers will go into today’s game without a chance at a championship, win or lose. But the 17ers, who play the tournament host Oklahoma City Ambassadors, aren’t planning to change their approach, even though the Ambassadors are 2-0 in pool play, beating the Drillers 13-5 and Westmoore 4-3 yesterday.

“Right now as far as this tournament goes, we’re in a position where we have nothing to lose,” he said. “The Ambassadors are a good baseball team, we knew that before we got here. So I don’t think our gameplan or our approach is going to change any. We just have to focus on putting seven innings together.”

Chris Klug will get the start on the mound for Manhattan in today’s 6 p.m. game.

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