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Squires had Apaches first TRC loss of season

HIT: Manchester’s Hayes Sturtsman delivers a seventh-inning, RBI-single into center field during Monday’s game against Wabash.

BY JACOB RUDE - sports@wabashplaindealer.com

By their own admission, the Apache baseball team knew it had tempted fate in recent weeks with numerous dramatic, late-game wins.

On Monday, the luck finally ran out.

A one-out single from Hayes Sturtsman in the top of the seventh gave Manchester a 3-2 lead that the Squires would see through in the bottom of the inning to hand Wabash its first conference loss of the season in the penultimate conference game.

“Manchester’s a good team,” Wabash head coach Jack Holley said. “They, fundamentally, are sound. They hit the ball. They field the ball. They do the things that you need to do to win. When you let a good team stick around, we’ve been pretty fortunate to put some things together the last few after being behind, we just didn’t have it tonight. I think the kids believed up until that last out that we were going to score.”

Both sides would score two runs in the first inning, setting up what looked to be a wild night of baseball. But after the four runs in the first frame, neither side scored across the next five innings. Each team would have runners in scoring position across the middle five innings, but neither team could deliver the clutch hit to plate the run.

“We’ve been playing fairly well here the last couple weeks,” Manchester head coach Jack Rupley said. “I thought the way that first inning started out both of us scoring two runs, I told Jack Holley and (Wabash assistant coach) Bill Barrows ‘Good gravy we got two decent pitchers on the mound. This might be a slugfest.’ Then both pitchers settled down and it just boiled down….we had a couple opportunities we didn’t take advantage of and it just so happened we got a ball through and scored a run.

“I can’t say enough about Grant (Strobel) and the way he threw the baseball tonight. He was on fire after that first inning. He kind of settled down and threw the ball really well. The Daughtry kid, after that first inning, threw the ball really well, too.”

After rocky starts to the night, both Manchester’s Grant Strobel and Wabash’s Trenton Daughtry settled in on the mound. Strobel needed just 72 pitches for his complete game effort while Daughtry tossed just 68 pitches in 6.1 innings pitched.

In the first, though, neither side looked steady defensively. Manchester opened the game with three-straight singles, the last of which an RBI-single from Kaleb Fluke.

Hayes Sturtsman’s sacrifice fly to left field made it a 2-0 lead, but Wabash settled down as Daughtry struck out Jeremiah Airgood before picking off Fluke at second.

The Apaches responded with offense of their own as Robert Irgang led off the bottom of the first with a single into right. A one-out single from Kallen Kelsheimer put runners on the corners for Clayton Floor, whose single into left brought Irgang in and moved Kelsheimer to third.

A throwing error on a pickoff attempt in the next at-bat, though, allowed Kelsheimer to score and Floor to eventually move to third.

The biggest play of the inning, though, came after a hard grounder from Jared Holley to Sturtsman at short. The senior would make a perfect throw home to gun down Floor for the second out of the game and preserve the 2-2 tie.

The play would prove vital as neither side could score moving forward. Wabash had the biggest threat with a one-out triple in the bottom of the sixth from Kelsheimer.

Strobel responded by striking out Floor before inducing a pop out from Holley to end the threat and the inning.

In the seventh, Daughtry would retire Strobel to open the frame before allowing a single into center. The Apaches would make a pitching change, putting in Kory Fuller in hopes of keeping the score tied.

The senior, though, allowed an infield single from Fluke to put a runner in scoring position. Sturtsman would have the big hit of the night as his grounder up the middle was enough to bring Mason Meyer around to score.

Jeremiah Airgood’s fly ball into left in the ensuing at-bat would not be deep enough to allow Fluke to score as the Apaches got out of the inning with a double play.

Strobel, however, needed just 10 pitches in the seventh to work around a two-out single and earn the victory.

“We had opportunities early,” Holley said. “But hats off to Manchester. Their kid threw well, kept us off-stride. Trenton Daughtry threw well. We came in with our ace at the end right where we wanted to be, really, but we just couldn’t finish.”

Offensively, Fluke finished 3-for-4 with an RBI while Sturtsman was 2-for-4 with two RBIs.

Meyer finished 2-for-4 with two runs while Strobel had a hit and a run.

Strobel earned the win on the night with his complete game effort, giving up five hits and two runs with four strikeouts and no walks.

For Manchester, the win comes at a time where the Squires have begun playing their best baseball, according to Rupley.

“We talked about now (being) the time for us to play our best baseball,” he said. “For the last couple weeks I think we’ve started to get that. We’re getting the bat on the ball. I can’t complain about the way we’re playing, the effort we’re giving. Wabash is a good ball team. You can’t take anything away from them.”

The loss for Wabash, meanwhile, ends the bid for a perfect conference season, but does little to change the outlook of the conference title picture. A win on Monday would have clinched a share of the conference title, but a win on Wednesday, regardless of Monday’s result, would secure an outright title.

Kelsheimer finished 2-for-3 on Monday with a run while Irgang went 1-for-3 with a run. Floor and Samons had the other hits.

Daughtry, who was tagged with the loss, pitched 6.1 innings, giving up seven hits and three runs, all earned, with three strikeouts and a walk. Fuller pitched two-thirds of an inning, giving up a hit.

With the loss, Wabash now sees tonight’s contest against Maconaquah become a de facto Three Rivers Conference title game with the winner claiming the outright title.

“At the end of the day, you’d really like to be (outright) champions, so we’ve looked at it as we really have to beat Maconaquah anyway,” Holley said. “Now it just kind of forced our hand a little bit. They’re going to be good. They’ve got Ethan (Larason) throwing. It’s good for us to see the kid we saw today, Ethan coming back on Wednesday. We’ve got Northwester (on Tuesday). We’re seeing some good teams right before sectional (with) good pitching because really throughout the sectional we’re going to see good pitching.

“This is a good tune up for sectional. I’d trade the conference for a sectional title any day. But we’d like them both if we can. We’ll play one game at a time, come after Maconaquah on Wednesday and see what happens.”

First pitch for tonight’s game is set for 6 p.m.