The American Legion Manhattan Manko senior 17ers managed a 3-1 record in pool play at the 21st annual Tournament of Champions at the Eisenhower Baseball Complex Friday and Saturday.
They enter today’s bracket portion of the tournament as the No. 4 seed, earning a rematch against the top-seeded Hays Eagles, which beat them 10-4 in the final game of pool play Saturday afternoon.
The Eagles beat Manhattan (3-2) on Saturday, despite being out-hit 12-9 by the 17ers. Manhattan trailed 4-2 after three innings and stayed close until allowing four runs in the sixth and two more in the seventh. Pitcher Connor Brown got the start for Manhattan, but battled command and came out after facing five batters. With a depleted pitching staff that was trying to save arms for today’s games, Manhattan coach Luke Snyder turned to catcher Alex Huerta.
Huerta pitched five strong innings, escaping a bases-loaded jam in the first and allowing just two runs and five hits to go with five strikeouts.
“He did great out there,” Snyder said. “All of the action he’s had on the mound was from bullpens in practice. We weren’t really sure what to expect out of him, but he did great for us. He stayed composed, handled situations and put the ball across the plate.”
Hays’ Marcus Altman earned the win for the Eagles, pitching all seven innings and allowing just four runs despite 12 hits.
Helping the Eagles along were Manhattan’s five errors.
“We’re getting better,” Snyder said of his defense. “We had a couple moments we could have handled better, but we’re getting there.”
In the early game Saturday, Manhattan won 10-1 over St. Joseph Post 11, getting six strong innings from Ethan Fabrizius while the offense paved the way.
“He was great,” Snyder said of Fabrizius. “That’s what we expect out of Ethan. We expect him to go deep into games when he starts, and that’s exactly what he did.”
Manhattan finished with 10 runs on 12 hits, drawing six walks and smacking four extra-base hits, taking a 6-1 lead after three innings and adding four more in the top of the sixth.
The game was called after six innings because of the tournament’s two-hour time limit for pool play games.
MANHATTAN 5, KANSAS CRUSH 3
Kansas Crush 1 0 0 0 2 0 — 3 3 1
Manhattan 1 4 0 0 0 X — 5 6 3
WP — Leeper (1-0). LP — Ramberg (0-1). 2B — Kansas Crush (Rineberg).
MANHATTAN 13, GREAT BEND 4
Manhattan 0 0 0 4 2 5 2 — 13 12 2
Great Bend 0 2 2 0 0 0 0 — 4 6 4
WP — Fabrizius (1-0). LP — Beck (0-1). 2B — Manhattan (Myers 2, Whipple, C. Klug).
Manhattan got a pair of wins to start the tournament Friday, opening against some familiar faces with a game against the Kansas Crush before beating the Great Bend Chiefs in the second game.
The 17ers beat the Crush 5-3 in the tournament opener Friday morning, facing Bret Fehr, TJ Giller and Jacob Biller, who all play for the Crush, in the process.
“It’s just part of summer baseball,” Snyder said of playing against teammates. “Those are good guys, good kids, good baseball players and they play on a good, quality baseball team. It was a big win for us and I’m proud of the way our guys played against them.”
Manhattan’s Mike Leeper (1-0) got the start on the mound, lasting four innings before ceding to Jesse Steinbring, who limited the damage and helped Manhattan hang on for the win.
The 17ers led 5-1 after Josh Klug drew a bases-loaded walk and Leeper hit a two-run single. Garrett Francis scored on a passed ball to start the big inning.
The Crush loaded the bases in the top of the fifth to chase Leeper, but after a bases-loaded walk scored a run and a sacrifice fly, Steinbring got a pair of strikeouts to escape with the lead intact.
The game was called after six innings because of the time limit.
In the second game Friday, Manhattan beat Great Bend 13-4, overcoming a slow start and a 4-0 deficit after three innings.
Manhattan starter Evan Olson allowed four runs over four innings of work, before Fabrizius and Conner Brown finished out the game on the mound.
Manhattan put up four runs in the fourth, two in the fifth and five in the sixth to take the lead for good.
Kellen Myers finished with two doubles, while Dustan Whipple added an RBI double to pace the 17ers.
Snyder said he was pleased with the way his team competed after losing its opening game on Tuesday 14-2.
“We were a much better baseball team today than we were on Tuesday,” he said. “If you have a bad outing, you have to put it behind you and move on to the next game. That’s the great thing about the summer, you don’t have long to think about it. You play again right away.”