Seniors split final games in Missouri

By Grant Guggisberg

After dropping their first game on Sunday, the American Legion Manhattan Manko senior 17ers salvaged a split with a win in Game 2, finishing the weekend in St. Joseph, Mo., with a 3-1 record.

Against Next Level baseball in the day’s second game, Manhattan got the two runs it would need in the fifth inning after Jesse Steinbring allowed a run in the bottom of the fourth without a hit.

Next Level’s leadoff batter was hit by Steinbring to reach base before stealing second and third and scoring on a groundout to shortstop Garrett Francis.

But the 17ers responded, getting back-to-back singles by Dustan Whipple and Mike Leeper before Grant Herpich moved them over on a sac bunt to put two men in scoring position with one out. Alex Huerta got the first RBI on a groundout to third, with Francis scoring the go-ahead run on an RBI single.

From there, Steinbring shut down Next Level the rest of the way, ending with a complete-game three-hitter.

“He pitched well,” Snyder said. “I’ve seen Jesse pitch better, but he was competitive. Not all of his off-speed stuff was there throughout the entire game, but he kept battling. Our defense played pretty well behind him and offensively it was a weird game.”

Manhattan finished with seven hits but couldn’t find the big hit with guys in scoring position.

“For the most part, we hit the ball pretty well,” Snyder said. “We had a lot of hard-hit outs.”

In the first game of the day, Manhattan played the Kansas-City based Midwest Blacksox, losing 5-4, but coming one hit away from completing the rally after falling behind 5-0 in the second inning.

The 17ers got a run in the third inning and two more in the fourth before getting one run home in the seventh with Ethan Fabrizius in scoring position as pinch-hitter Grant Herpich came to the plate. Herpich struck out to end the game.

Manhattan had to try and overcome a tough call in the final inning of the game. Alex Huerta was at the plate with runners at the corners and was hit by a pitch, but the umpire called him back into the box to continue that at-bat. He flied out, changing what could have been bases loaded with one out into first and third with two outs.

“It’s a judgement call,” Snyder said. “I didn’t agree with his judgment, but bottom line is we put ourselves in that position, and we didn’t need to be in that position. We put ourselves in a spot where one bad break like that finishes you off.”

Facing a big deficit, Manhattan got started in the third with a two-out triple by Steinbring. DJ Kordyak walked before Kellen Myers drove Steinbring home on a groundout.

In the fourth inning, Josh Mullin walked and Chris Klug hit a single to set the table for Whipple, who hit a two-RBI double.

In the seventh, Whipple drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a errant pick-off attempt and moved to third on a groundout by Jonah Webber. After a Fabrizius hit-by-pitch and an Alex Huerta controversial fly-out, Steinbring hit an RBI single to score Whipple and give the 17ers two baserunners, but the rally fell one hit short.

“We started to make a little bit of a comeback, but we came up short,” Snyder said. “They fought and they played hard.”

The 17ers faced such a big deficit after another tough inning early in the game, giving up five runs. Two walks and an error loaded the bases, with a pair of singles to follow and score three of the runs. A pair of hit batters forced in another run and a sacrifice fly scored the final run after Francis took over for Leeper on the mound, but the damage was done.

“The bottom line is, we had a bad inning in the second and that one bad inning was enough to beat us,” Snyder said. “And unfortunately, we’ve said that too many times this year. We need to cut down on the big innings.”

With a big tournament split between Topeka and Manhattan looming on the weekend, the 17ers will travel to Kansas City for a game against the KC Bullets on Tuesday on the Kansas City Kansas Community College campus.

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