State bound: Baseball takes regional championship

Manhattan+High+poses+with+the+regional+championship+trophy+after+beating+Lawrence+High+10-2.
Manhattan High poses with the regional championship trophy after beating Lawrence High 10-2.

Manhattan High poses with the regional championship trophy after beating Lawrence High 10-2.

Jacob Clanton

Jacob Clanton

Manhattan High poses with the regional championship trophy after beating Lawrence High 10-2.

Jacob Clanton, Sports Editor

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After three long years of waiting, Manhattan High can finally claim the regional championship for itself.

“[The] last two years we came up short at regionals,” senior Nick Wohler said, “both in the championship games. Getting there finally with the three seniors who are captains now, and the three seniors who have been on this team since their sophomore year [is great].”

MHS beat Lawrence High in the regional final 10-2 to secure its spot in the state tournament.

“Just unbelievable,” senior Chance Henderson said. “It’s a great feeling, from last year, sitting on the other end of it, watching Washburn Rural dogpile, to being able to dogpile here, especially at K-State under the lights, was a great feeling.”

The Indians started flat, with junior pitcher Carson Marsh giving up two runs in the second inning.

“I wasn’t so sure how long [Marsh] was going to stay in the game the way he started,” head coach Don Hess said. “We had guys warming up in the second inning, but he responded, you know, started to throw pitches for strikes and mix up his pitches.”

Though it wasn’t much, Lawrence’s 2-0 lead worried Hess.

“You’re always worried,” Hess said, “because in these postseason games, if you fall behind early, you start to put a little pressure on yourself. I was more worried because of how they scored their runs because they just bunted the ball, and we didn’t handle it very well.”

Manhattan finally got started in the bottom of the second, with sophomore Zac Cox scoring on an error to jumpstart the Indian offense.

“[Lawrence’s pitcher] wasn’t anything really special, something we hadn’t seen before,” Wohler said, “so we knew we were going to score runs. When we got one back, I mean, you could almost feel the momentum swing, even when we were still down one. They threw a couple balls away, and you could kind of feel it turn.”

As MHS began to fight back, the team kept their goals in the back of their minds.

“We just told each other that this is not where our season’s ending,” senior Chance Andrade said. “We have goals to win state and we can’t just let this couple innings beat us, we have to come back and get our bats hot again, and just let it carry us throughout the [whole] way.”

Manhattan scored three runs in the third to take a 4-2 lead, but it was the fourth inning that blew the game wide open. Wohler hit a 3-RBI triple, pushing the Indians to a 7-2 lead.

“They changed pitchers and Coach Hess just says, ‘Blow it open,’” Wohler said, “so that’s all I was thinking the whole time. I was just thinking, you know, get a good pitch and crush it, and ended up doing that, so it worked out.”

The Indians knew that was huge.

“Nick’s hit, that’s what sealed the deal for us,” Andrade said. “When he cleared the bases on that hit, that just, that sealed the deal on the game. We just knew that we weren’t going to get off the throttle. We knew that after that, it was over.”

After giving up the two runs in the second, Marsh buckled down, holding the Chesty Lions scoreless.

“I told [Marsh], I said, ‘Your first two innings were not very good,’” Hess said, “but his last five were really incredible. He was just really good, he was in command, he lets your defense play, and he works quick.”

A big reason for Marsh’s success was Henderson. Henderson made some key diving stops at third base.

“[It was] just the focus and being in the game,” Henderson said. “Knowing the weight of the game, stepping up in big times for my team.”

However, for the third baseman to be productive throwing, the first baseman needs to be productive catching. Wohler did not disappoint.

“Henderson was great,” Wohler said. “I told him, as long as he makes the diving plays, I’ll get the scoops at first, and that seemed to work tonight, so it was great.”

MHS added two runs in the sixth inning, pushing the lead to 9-2. As close at the Indians were, they still needed to stay focused.

“Right before we broke,” Andrade said, “Coach told us to stay in the moment and not to think too far ahead, so for most of us, we were just focused on the game. First out, second out, third out, and then after that, it’s just celebration time.”

Very little stood between Manhattan and the state tournament.

“Three outs,” Wohler said. “Just three outs, and counting them down. It goes slower when you’re out there, but they came finally. [Marsh] was filling it up the last inning, he kept throwing strikes. It just seemed like it was a long time, not that it was his fault or anything, just in the moment, took a long time, but it finally came.”

The outs came, and Manhattan dogpiled. The Indians clinched a spot in the state tournament for the first time since 2014.

“I couldn’t be prouder of our guys,” Hess said, “our seniors who have been here for three years, not going to state [before]. This was a total team effort tonight.”

For the state tournament, MHS knows it needs to keep the momentum going.

“You got to stay hungry,” Hess said. “One of the things that you confront this time of year are graduations, and you’re going to take a little bit of time off, and you just have to make sure the time you take off doesn’t zap you of all your momentum and your focus. You get to a state tournament, and you got to be as lucky as you are good, but I think our guys want to not just go there, but they want to do well. Their goal is to win the state championship, so we’re going to do everything we can to make that happen.”

For the seniors, ending their careers at state means a lot.

“It’s such a great feeling,” Andrade said. “Being on the team last year, and losing that heartbreaker to Washburn, definitely a great feeling knowing that we’re going to state this year.”

For Henderson, it was a perfect night.

“It’s hard to put in words,” Henderson said. “That’s just the perfect way to write up a baseball night, it was a great way to punch our ticket to state. We can’t write it up any better.”

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State bound: Baseball takes regional championship