Baseball fights back, finishes second

Jacob Clanton, Sports Editor

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As the state trophy was presented, Manhattan High stood on the third-base line. Disappointment showed on the team’s faces, as the Indians watched Blue Valley storm the field and celebrate.

Even a second place finish couldn’t dampen the hurt of a 12-8 loss for the Indians.

MHS got off to a bad start, as junior pitcher Ethan Kaus allowed the first five batters to hit, ending his day quickly.

“Ethan really hasn’t pitched much,” head coach Don Hess said. “He had missed about a week with some school-related activities and then we had the gaps and the regionals and didn’t get a chance there [to pitch Kaus]. It’s really hard to simulate that championship game, and he gave it everything he had.”

The Tigers would score all five hitters, taking a 5-0 lead after the first inning. Blue Valley would stretch that lead to 9-0 before Manhattan got on the board.

“We talked about the fact that we started out slowly,” Hess said. “We weren’t very good on the mound early on and we had a couple defensive miscues that came back to bite us.”

Even as they were facing being run-ruled, the Indians continued to battle, scoring two runs in the third to cut into the lead. MHS scored three more in the fifth to cut the lead to four, giving the team some life.

“That’s the one thing I’ve been the proudest of,” Hess said. “The last three or four weeks we found an identity and it was all pulling on the same rope. [When the Indians came within four] everybody was excited. We just needed that one more hit.”

Junior pitcher Talon Claussen helped give Manhattan a chance. Claussen entered in relief for senior Jake Steinbring in the third inning, and retired the first four batters he saw.

“That’s arguably the best he pitched,” Hess said. “We could’ve brought him in earlier, but last time he pitched he had trouble with some walks. You can’t really bring somebody in [with the] bases juiced that has had some trouble with control, but he was marvelous. He was in control and command. He gave us what we needed.”

Offensively, hitting wasn’t a problem for MHS, as it finished with 15 hits. Getting a big hit was.

“I was just so proud of the fact that we just kept slugging and trying to figure out how to score,” Hess said. “We just could never quite get that big hit to get us back within striking range all the way. We sure had a lot of chances, and I’m extremely proud of that.”

It seemed as though the Indians would have a miraculous comeback, but defensive errors prevented that. Blue Valley was able to score three runs in the sixth to extend the lead to 12-5 thanks to an error with two outs that kept the inning alive.

“You get into these high pressure games,” Hess said, “and the situations require you to be perfect. You always have to think a play ahead and that’s hard to do. We just had some plays that we didn’t complete and that’s the name of the game. We put pressure on other teams this weekend too, and they made the same mistakes.”

Manhattan still refused to give up, scoring three runs in the last two innings. The Indians even managed to load the bases with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, getting the tying run to the plate. They were unable to get a big hit though, and lost 12-8.

Even in the loss, Hess was proud of how the team played this season.

“I thought it was a marvelous season,” Hess said. “You’re league champs, you’re regional champs, you’re the top seed in the state tournament and you finish second in the state. I know that they’re disappointed right now, but they can never be disappointed in the effort that they put out there. We’re just so proud to get us back to a state tournament and to play in the biggest game in the biggest class in the state of Kansas says a lot about the quality of our young men.”

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Baseball fights back, finishes second