More often than not, when the American Legion Manhattan Manko senior 17ers take the field during the middle of the week in their wood-bat-league games, they rarely know much about the team in the other dugout.
Playing against the Topeka Stars on Tuesday night — a game they lost 5-2 — that wasn’t the case.
The Stars snagged several Manhattan High graduates for its team this summer, including Mike Leeper, Kellen Myers, Tyler Wohler, Evan Olson and Athen Martinez.
Manhattan assistant coach Ryan Wilkinson, who filled in for head coach Steve Disbrow Tuesday night, said it was unique to have so many familiar faces on the other side of the diamond.
“It was pretty cool playing against those guys,” he said. “Those guys are all good players, I enjoyed coaching them this last spring. It’s definitely unique seeing them over there, but I wish them the best and hopefully they have a good summer and on in their futures.”
The game itself stayed close all night, with Manhattan taking a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first without the aid of a hit.
Garrett Francis took a leadoff walk from Rock Creek lefty Jesse Correll to start the game, and scored on a balk later in the inning.
But Topeka would answer with three runs in the top of the third, getting a pair of hits and a walk from Manhattan starter Nathan Kordyak. The inning ended with Myers reaching on an error to shallow right field before getting thrown out at second base after sliding off the bag.
Topeka would add two more runs in the top of the fourth on a sac fly and an error to lead 5-1.
Manhattan got a run back in the bottom of the frame, with Francis hitting an RBI single to score Darien Stokes.
Neither team would score again as both bullpens were dominant to close out the contest.
While the 17ers had just five hits in the contest, Wilkinson said he was pleased because he saw progress at the plate.
“We had a few guys that had a much better approach at the plate tonight,” he said. “I really like to see that out of our guys, as long as they progress every time out.”
Wilkinson said the team has slowly embraced the plate approach set out by the coaching staff.
“I know that Garrett has been showing he’s committed to the approach a lot better,” he said. “He’s really using the whole field with the bat. I like to see that out of him as the leadoff hitter, he’s got to be on base as much as he can. And Jake Olson is starting to come around, too.
“There are a few other guys — I’m sure I haven’t named them all — but there are guys that are really starting to figure it out at the plate. That’s progress for us.”
From the fifth inning on, the two bullpens combined to allow just three hits and no runs to quickly end the game.
Correll earned the win on the mound for Topeka, with Kordyak taking the loss. Leeper earned the save for the Stars with a scoreless ninth, while Olson pitched a scoreless seventh.
For Manhattan, Kordyak finished with four innings pitched, allowing five runs on three hits. Jeremy Broadwater came on in relief and pitched four scoreless innings, allowing one hit, before Eric Prockish came on for a scoreless ninth.
“Both teams pitched pretty well — we made an error that cost us a couple runs, but other than that, I thought we had some guys get better today,” Wilkinson said. “Nathan threw well, and so did Jeremy.”
Manhattan struggled to get baserunners all night, but made things worse by getting caught stealing in four consecutive innings, most of which came on plays where the catcher fumbled the ball before recovering to get the out.
“Once the ball hits the dirt, we think about moving and getting going,” Wilkinson said. “We made a couple good reads, and a couple bad ones. We talk about being committed right away, but if you hesitate, and we hesitated a couple times, you get caught. It’s a tough break, but we’ve got to build on it and fix it.”
Manhattan plays in the Kansas Grand Slam tournament in Salina this weekend.
Juniors can’t hold on at Wamego
After trailing most of the night against the Wamego Red Raiders in a single nine-inning game, the junior 17ers managed to tie the game with a four-run top of the eighth inning Tuesday night in Wamego.
But the Red Raiders managed to walk off against Manhattan, scoring a run in the bottom of the ninth with the teams tied at eight runs apiece, giving Wamego the 9-8 win.
The result was a continued struggle for Manhattan to close out ballgames, with the team often giving up big rallies to opponents in the late innings.
In this case, the rally came from the 17ers, which never led in the game but tied it three times.
They quickly fell behind 2-0 in the first inning but scored single runs in the third and fourth innings to tie it up.
Wamego plated another two runs in the bottom of the fourth to retake the lead, but the scrappy 17ers scored individual runs in the sixth and seventh innings to make things even again.
After a four-run bottom of the seventh for Wamego, the 17ers put together their best inning all night, tying the game at 8-8 and putting up a zero in the bottom of the inning.
But the offense couldn’t get going in the ninth, and the Red Raiders finished off Manhattan in walkoff fashion with a run in the bottom of the ninth.
Chance Henderson and Parker Beer each finished with three-hit games for the 17ers, while each driving in a run. Alex Fetters finished with two hits and two RBIs.
Kobe Brown started the game for Manhattan, pitching three innings and allowing two runs, with Dylan Newell replacing him and lasting an inning while also allowing two runs.
Beer pitched two innings, allowing a run, with Fetters coming on and allowing three runs in his inning before Jace Priddle came on to pitch the last 1 2/3 innings before giving up the winning run that ended the game and take the loss.