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Senior 17ers split with Salina

By Grant Guggisberg

After a disappointing first game during Friday night’s doubleheader against Salina Falcons at Norvell Field, assistant coach Ryan Wilkinson implored his team to play with more energy in Game 2.

It worked, as the American Legion Manhattan Manko senior 17ers fought through the second game and won 8-4 after losing Game 1, 4-0, while logging just three hits.

Wilkinson, who filled in for head coach Steve Disbrow Friday night, said the team kicked it up a notch in the second game.

“In the first game, we came out pretty lackadaisical and just lacked a little energy,” he said. “I don’t know if the guys are tired or what, but we just lacked energy. That second game, we got our pep in our step and picked up our game a little bit, picked up our approach, and got back to playing our game. Obviously, it turned out a lot better for us.”

Just as it did in the first game, Manhattan got a strong pitching effort from its starter. Jared Ayres took the mound for the 17ers, pitching 6 2/3 innings while allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits, adding six strikeouts to just three walks. Ayres cruised through most of the game, allowing single runs in the first and third innings, before finding trouble in the top of the seventh.

Offensively, Manhattan managed a 2-1 lead after one inning, despite only logging one hit, AJ Epperson’s two-out, two-RBI single.

Salina tied the game in the top of the third, without the aid of a hit, with a hit-by-pitch, followed by a walk and an RBI groundout.

After retaking the lead by scratching across a single run in the bottom of the frame, Manhattan took a 6-2 lead with a three-run fourth, sending nine batters to the plate and scoring three runs off just two hits, the first an RBI-single by Garrett Francis and the second another RBI-single by Epperson. Jake Olson also logged an RBI with a groundout.

The 17ers made it 8-0 after Salina’s pitchers quit throwing strikes, walking five consecutive batters before finally making a pitching change to get out of the jam.

Salina scored two runs in the top of the seventh and had two more on against Ayres, so Wilkinson opted to bring in Francis in relief. He induced the final out of the game, a groundout to third, to earn the save.

“We were a lot more fundamentally sound in the second game,” Wilkinson said. “It was a lot cleaner of a game and it was a matter of picking up our effort and our energy level. That helps a ton.”

The first game, however, a lack of energy in all facets of the game resulted in a shutout.

Manhattan came out on the losing end of a pitcher’s duel, dropping the game 4-0 and wasting a quality start by Jeremy Broadwater.

Broadwater allowed just two hits and two earned runs over five innings, striking out three and walking three. Manhattan’s three errors made his job tough.

“Jeremy threw well — I kept him in for that reason,” Wilkinson said. “I thought he was in control of the game, for the most part. We botched a couple of balls, which cost us a couple of runs, but Jeremy threw great.

“The same for Jared. Both those guys threw great tonight and it was easy on me to not have to go through a lot of guys to throw.”

Offensively, Manhattan struggled against Salina starter Justin McCartney, who threw six scoreless innings while letting his defense work behind him.

The Falcons scored an unearned run in the fourth inning, then tacked on two more in the fifth, all without the aid of a hit.

Reliever Nathan Kordyak inherited a baserunner and allowed him to score with two hits in the inning, leading to a 4-0 lead for Salina.

The 17ers didn’t have a baserunner reach third base in the game, and logged just three hits.

After taking the rest of the weekend off, the 17ers will host the Kansas City-based team The Yard on Tuesday at Norvell Field in a nine-inning game using wood bats, beginning at 6 p.m.

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