Senior 17ers to open season tonight

By Joel Jellison

When the Manhattan American Legion Manko senior 17ers take the field tonight, it will be a little more than 48 hours since the team’s rosters became final on Sunday.

But new 17ers’ coach Steve Disbrow said regardless of how much time they’ve had to get ready for the season, they will be playing baseball, and that’s what the summer is all about.

The 17ers will host KC Elite Navy in the first game of the Wood Bat League this summer at 6 p.m. at Norvell Field. It will be the team’s first exposure to the type of bats they will be using in three tournaments this summer.

“Wood bats at this level are kind of the great equalizer,” Disbrow said. “It puts everyone on a more level playing field.

“I like it because from a hitter’s standpoint, it forces you to put a good swing on the ball and square it up. You really have to earn it. From that perspective, it will be really good for our hitters.”

Disbrow reiterated that his team will be young, but said they are a good, talented bunch that seems ready to get after it this summer.

As the 17ers get into action tonight, they will be looking to develop arms to bolster the lineup throughout the summer.

Disbrow said depth will be important throughout the summer months.

“We’re going to have to develop some depth,” he said. “Anytime you play five games in a weekend you need to have some depth, certainly in your bullpen as well. At this point it’s just about plugging guys in and finding the right place they can help the team.”

The 17ers’ roster will include four varsity players from Manhattan High in AJ Epperson, Garrett Francis, Jake Olson and Alex Huerta.

Disbrow said it will be a group he’ll rely on for leadership and key contributions in ball games.

The 17ers will also add MHS junior varsity players Darien Stokes and Isaac Leon, two players Disbrow said are ready to take the next step toward varsity.

Manhattan will also be bolstered by a pair of out of town players in Wamego pitcher Jared Ayres and Riley County outfielder Trace Nelson.

“I’m really excited about the group we have,” Disbrow said. “We’ve got some young guys and we’ve got some guys that are going to be playing at a really high level this summer, and some guys that we need to get going and see where they can help us, what their roles can be.

“We need to kind of figure out who we are and what our identity is going to be.”

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