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Senior 17ers snag a pair of wins this week

By Grant Guggisberg

After struggling to a winless record in Oklahoma City last weekend and watching a pair of games get rained out, the American Legion Manhattan Manko senior 17ers were ready for a shot at redemption this week.

That chance came on Wednesday, a day late after Tuesday’s scheduled game with the Johnson County Hornets in Topeka was rained out. The two teams opted to play Wednesday instead, with Manhattan winning 12-0 in a blowout.

“Very refreshing,” Manhattan coach Luke Snyder said. “Our schedule is great this summer because if we’re not happy with the way we play, we don’t have to wait long to go do something about it. So it was nice to get on the field against the Johnson County Hornets and play better.”

Following Wednesday’s win, the 17ers traveled to Lawrence Thursday to open the Jayhawk Classic 18U showcase, opening against the Kansas City-based Orioles Gold and winning 8-0.

In Thursday’s win, Manhattan got its bats going early and often, scoring a pair of runs in four different innings to win in a run-rule.

The 17ers capitalized on errors and walks by the Orioles’ Gold team to score eight runs with only five hits. Michael Leeper’s two-out, two-RBI double in the fifth inning was arguably the game’s biggest hit as it gave the 17ers a 6-0 lead.

Jesse Steinbring earned the win with six innings of scoreless ball. He allowed five hits while striking out seven and walking none.

“Jesse was absolutely awesome yesterday,” Snyder said. “He threw 64 pitches in six innings and I think he faced one hitter over the minimum. And that was thanks to our defense and Josh Mullin throwing out a couple runners.”

Manhattan got two quick runs in the first, despite getting only a single from Dustan Whipple. Mullin reached on an error to score a run and crossed the plate on another Oriole error.

In the third, Manhattan turned a leadoff walk by Kellen Myers and an infield single by Whipple into a pair of runs, with Chris Klug grounding out to second to score a run and Leeper hitting an RBI single to make it 4-0.

Manhattan earned the run-rule win when Grant Herpich and Caleb Gorman each drew walks to leadoff the sixth inning, with Garrett Francis scoring Herpich on a groundout and Gorman coming home on an error by the third baseman.

In Wednesday’s game, Manhattan (7-7) used a nine-run fourth inning to put away the overmatched Hornets, eventually winning by run-rule in the sixth inning, 12-0.

The 17ers scored the nine runs on just five hits, drawing three walks and capitalizing on two Hornet errors. Ethan Fabrizius hit an RBI triple, while Josh Klug hit an RBI single. Chris Klug and Leeper each drew bases-loaded walks to score runs, while Herpich delivered a two-RBI single.

“That’s the type of team we are,” Snyder said. “We’ve yet to hit a home run and we’ve had very few extra-base hits. We’re a team that has to put pressure on the defense, make them make throws in a hurry and make them make quick decisions. We have to move runners and get guys in scoring position, and we have to score them. The last two games, we’ve been able to put all that together.”

Fabrizius earned the win on the mound with four innings of one-hit ball, including six strikeouts and no walks. Francis and Connor Brown each pitched a scoreless inning of relief to preserve the shutout.

“The biggest thing was Ethan Fabrizius on the mound,” Snyder said. “He was throwing strikes, being competitive and consistent, and that was the biggest difference for us.”

Looking forward, the 17ers will play two games on Friday, facing a pair of Kansas City-based teams in the Cavaliers and MNS (Mac-N-Seitz) before playing a final game on Saturday. MNS is one of several select teams under the instruction of former Kansas City Royals Mike Macfarlane and Kevin Seitzer, though they are a 16U team.

Regardless of who they face, Snyder is looking for the starting pitching to continue to carry his team.

“We know we need another good performance out of our starter,” he said. “We’ve had two good starts in a row. If we can get that consistency and effort out of Mike Leeper, who will start Game 1 for us, we’ll be just fine.”

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