With an undefeated weekend record heading into Sunday’s final game of the Kansas State showcase, the American Legion Manhattan Manko senior 17ers were looking good after half an inning against their final opponent, The Yard out of Lee’s Summit, Mo.
After taking a five-run lead in the first, the 17ers would need every last bit of offense they could muster in a 13-12, extra-inning win to cap a 5-0 weekend.
“We got off to a great start, and like I said to them, we let our guard down,” Manhattan coach Luke Snyder said. “They weren’t willing to give it to us, they made us work for it and made us play nine innings of baseball. They took advantage of our mistakes, but fortunately we were able to take advantage of some of their mistakes.”
Despite a 5-0 lead in the first, Manhattan trailed 8-5 after two innings and scored a run in the top of the seventh to force extras.
After a scoreless eighth, Manhattan broke through in the top of the ninth, plating three runs despite logging just two hits in the inning.
Kellen Myers hit a one-out double to represent the go-ahead run at second base, then moved to third after consecutive walks to Jonah Webber and Josh Mullin that loaded the bases. Chris Klug hit the first pitch he saw to center field to score two runs, with Josh Klug hitting into a fielder’s choice to plate a third.
“We just had a pretty good approach at the plate,” Snyder said. “We didn’t try to do too much. There were a couple innings there where we lost our approach, but once the game got on the line, our approach got better, back to where it was. We have to be ourselves, we can’t be something we’re not in the batter’s box.”
In the bottom of the inning, Chris Klug, who took over in the second inning for starter Evan Olson, struggled to get the final three outs to put the game away. He allowed a pair of one-out singles to make it 13-11 before getting an infield pop-up to record the second out. Klug struggled trying to get the last out, though, allowing a single and a pair of walks, the second with the bases loaded, to make it 13-12.
But Klug was able to get the final out via pickoff, throwing over to third late but getting the runner at second base to end the game and preserve the win.
Klug finished with 7 1/3 innings pitched in the game, scattering 10 hits and allowing four runs with a strikeout. Even though he was visibly running out of gas in the final inning, Snyder said it was Klug’s game to win or lose.
“He’s a competitor, he never wants to come out of the ballgame,” he said. “At that point, he was going to win it or lose it for us.”
Offensively, the 17ers were led by Myers, who finished 3 for 4 with a double and two walks and Josh Klug who was 4 for 6.
Manhattan (20-14) could have won the game sooner had it cut out some defensive miscues early in the game. The 17ers finished with six errors in the game, with The Yard committing four.
“We played hard,” Snyder said. “We may not have played our best baseball in this second game, but we played hard. They wanted to finish this weekend right, and I wanted the same thing.”
After a weekend of clean baseball, Snyder said he wasn’t sure what caused the lapses in Sunday’s finale.
“It’s been a long weekend,” he said. “Fifth game of the weekend, sixth game this week. There may have been some mental fatigue. There were some plays we typically make, some mental mistakes in there. We need to make those plays, though.”
In the early game Sunday, Manhattan made quick work of the Wichita Reds, using a nine-run second inning to all but put the game away.
The 17ers were able to capitalize on the mistakes of the Reds throughout the inning, logging only three hits but drawing five walks and taking two free bases on hit batters. They also scored three times on passed balls and the Reds committed four errors in the inning to keep the rally going.
Manhattan would end the game with 13 runs on just six hits, while 17er starter Ethan Fabrizius allowed just two hits in five shutout innings.
“We got on the bases and we pressured them,” Snyder said. “I think Kellen led off the game and stole a bag, stole third, scored a run. We’ve had three games in a row, maybe more, where we got a run in the first inning. That takes the pressure off the pitcher, off the defense and lets you settle in.
“Kellen has been very good for us in that leadoff spot.”
Manhattan was scheduled to play Tuesday against Emporia, but the game was called off, giving the 17ers the rare chance to rest before traveling to Topeka for the Washburn University showcase this weekend.
“It’s probably a break that we need at this point, but at the same time, when you’re playing good baseball, you don’t really want to come off the field,” Snyder said. “We need the rest. We’ve got four or five guys on our staff that have thrown 40-plus innings already, so we can take a Tuesday off and be OK.”