After losing to the Leavenworth Diamond Jaxx in 11 innings on Wednesday, the season came down to one game for the American Legion Manhattan Manko senior 17ers.
Unfortunately for the 17ers, an early six-run deficit was too much to overcome in a 6-5 loss in the AAA Zone finals in Leavenworth.
Manhattan coach Luke Snyder summed up the season-ending loss in one word.
“Disappointing,” he said. “We didn’t play good enough to win. Disappointing is the best way to summarize it.”
The Diamond Jaxx scored a pair of runs in the first, fourth and fifth innings before Manhattan could score its first runs, putting them down 6-0 early.
The 17ers’ offense got going in the bottom of the fifth, as Mike Leeper doubled to open the inning and then Josh Klug hit a single to score him.
Josh Mullin was hit by a pitch to open the bottom of the sixth, and then stole second. Dustan Whipple doubled him in to make it 6-2.
In the seventh inning, Garrett Francis hit a double, and then scored on a error by a Leavenworth outfielder on a fly ball hit by Kellen Myers. Leeper singled to score Jonah Webber in the eighth to bring the 17ers within two runs of the 6-4 lead.
The comeback came close.
Klug hit a one-out single in the ninth and then stole second with two outs. Mullin hit a single to score him and bring the 17ers within a run of the lead, but Manhattan flew out to center field to end the game.
Snyder thought his team was still reeling from its 10-9 loss in extra innings on Wednesday.
“We competed, which was good, but we got down 6-0 — that’s tough to come back from,” he said. “We didn’t catch many breaks, and we may have been a little hungover from the 11-inning game we let slip away. Most of our players felt like we shouldn’t have been there.”
Klug and Mullin were each 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored. Whipple and Leeper each had two hits and an RBI.
Leeper started the game on the mound and went five innings, giving up six runs on 11 hits with three strikeouts.
Although he wasn’t sharp, Snyder said he thought he gave them a good chance to win.
“We had Mike Leeper (pitching), who has been good at times for us, and he didn’t do great, but he wasn’t bad,” he said. “Six runs in a nine inning ball game, you expect to win only giving up six, but we hit into a few double plays early and didn’t take advantage of our opportunities.”
Jesse Steinbring pitched the final four innings, giving up no hits, one walk and striking out eight.
Snyder said even though the season came to an end short of making the AAA state tournament, there was plenty accomplished by his team this summer.
“The big picture, I thought we played great baseball in the month of July — we were better than we were in June, and that’s always a goal for our team,” he said. “We had some guys really turn the corner this summer. Guys like Josh Mullin, Chris Klug — there was no one I was more impressed with this summer than Chris Klug — there was nothing he didn’t do well, and I could go all the way down the list.
“I was impressed with the guys, and I think we established ourselves as a solid baseball team, and it was a fun ride.”