With the Kansas State baseball team hosting a NCAA regional for the first time in program history comes a change in plans for the American Legion Manhattan Manko senior 17ers.
Instead of hosting the 21st annual Tournament of Champions at one of the area’s nicest ballparks, they’ll move to Eisenhower Middle School’s Norvell Field and spend the weekend fighting Mother Nature in an effort to get games in between bouts of heavy rain and storms.
Manhattan coach Luke Snyder said the move is bittersweet.
“That’s kind of what makes our tournament special, the opportunity to play on K-State’s field,” he said. “It’s one of the nicest, if not the nicest, field in the area and we play on it every summer. So it’s kind of a bummer, but at the same time, I grew up in Manhattan and am a huge Wildcat fan, so I’m excited about the season they’ve had and they have the opportunity to host a regional.”
The tournament, originally scheduled to start this morning, was pushed back and reconfigured to accommodate several inches of rain from the previous 24 hours.
Tournament coordinator Mark Speer said the plan is to utilize all three fields at the Eisenhower complex and get the tournament started as soon as the fields are playable. He projected a start time of 2:15 p.m., with the 17ers playing at 4:15 p.m. Those estimates were made, however, on the condition that no more substantial amounts of precipitation fall before the start of the tournament.
“That’s how long it will take to get the fields dry,” Speer said. “We’re going to try and play all the fields together. Get umpires on all of them and trying to get this thing back on track.”
As for the 17ers, the group brings back 11 players from last year’s team, an unusual amount of returnees for summer baseball. Snyder said the added experience should be an advantage.
“Without a question,” he said. “This summer will be similar to last summer, so having 11 guys that have already experienced all this is an advantage. They’re a year older, and hopefully bigger, stronger and faster as well.”
Returning are seniors-to-be Kellen Myers, Jonah Webber, Chris Klug, Josh Mullin, Ethan Fabrizius, Alex Huerta and Mike Leeper, with recent graduates Josh Klug, Dustan Whipple, DJ Kordyak, Andrew Leary and Caleb Gorman also playing.
Snyder also said the team will feature some younger players.
“We have some younger guys. Jesse (Steinbring) is just 16-years old, even though he played on the team last year,” Snyder said. “He’s part of the class of 2015, as well as Garrett Francis, he’s part of the class of 2015 as well.”
Snyder said he expects Steinbring, Chris Klug, Leeper and Fabrizius to do the bulk of the pitching this summer.
The team played its first game of the year on Tuesday, falling 14-2 to KC Elite out of Lee’s Summit, Mo.