Manchester’s going to play a lot of “small ball” this spring, and so far, it’s working like a charm.
The Panthers, relying on situational baseball, again manufactured runs the old-school way and improved to 3-0 this season with a 5-3 home win over Field on Monday.
All five of the Panthers’ runs came after laying down a sacrifice bunt, moving runners into scoring position and driving them in. After losing much of the scoring offense last year and owning three great starting pitchers and a quality defense, that’s just what coach Derrick Mauger hopes Manchester baseball looks like, even if it’s something out of baseball’s Dead Ball Era.
“It’s good to see it working and it’s good to see the kids understanding that that’s what we’re going to do and who we’re going to be,” Mauger said. “We have to play solid and get solid pitching and then find ways to produce runs. We don’t have a guy who’s going to hit eight or 10 home runs and drive the gaps all the time. So it’s bunt and play small ball. That’s worked three straight games for us now.”
The Panthers jumped on Field early. Senior Jake Bumgarner walked to lead off the game, was bunted over and drove in on a single by junior Chandler Stahl. Later, Stahl scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of senior Richie Ashley.
Bumgarner switched roles in the second inning after scoring in the first. Freshman Mason Nist walked, was bunted over and drove in by Bumgarner, who ripped a double to right-center field to put Manchester up 3-0.
Bumgarner finished 2-2 and reached base four times. He also took the mound for the Panthers and struck out six while allowing four hits, two runs (one earned) in four innings. He would have stayed in the game longer, according to Mauger, if not for it being early in the season and very cold (mid-30s at first pitch). The cold wind and temperature didn’t seem to bother him, though.
“Jake’s a competitor,” Mauger said. “He’s out there in the outfield [for the final three innings] screaming all the time. He does that after every game. He’s a real positive kid, just one of those guys who loves to be out there playing. He’s probably the only guy that would have complained had we canceled today because he wanted to pitch so bad.”
Field (0-1) got to Bumgarner in the third inning after he briefly lost his control. An infield error and two walks loaded the bases with one out. Bumgarner got the second out with a superb curveball that left his hitter off balance, but couldn’t escape after senior Mitch Kisamore drove a single to right field, scoring two.
Manchester responded in the bottom half of the inning and got both runs back. Ashley walked to open the inning and junior Jessie Winter reached on an error. Both were bunted over by Nist. Junior Josh Seidel drove in a run with a single in-between the third baseman and shortstop. Winter, now on third, scored the final run when Seidel stole second base. Field tried to get the ball back home but bobbled it, allowing Winter to cross home.
Seidel closed the game out for the Panthers in the final two innings. He allowed three baserunners — Field had the tying run on second in the sixth inning — but ended both the sixth and seventh innings with strikeouts. Seidel was recently shut down due to elbow soreness and is just now returning to the mound. Mauger was encouraged by what he saw out of him and the entire team’s mentality in their opening weekend wins, especially considering a new offensive strategy.
“I think they expect to win,” he said. “If you don’t think you’re going to win you’ve already defeated yourself. It’s a mental thing, changing the attitude. That’s what you gotta do.”
Ryan Lewis can be reached at email@example.com. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.