Pitching key to Manchester baseball team’s chances this season
NEW FRANKLIN — Relying primarily on experience and strong pitching, the Manchester High School baseball team is looking to make some noise in the postseason.
Through May 1, the team already had equaled last year’s win total with a 10-9 overall record, including a 6-5 mark in the Principals Athletic Conference (PAC).
“With our current record, I believe the pressure is off of us in terms of the league,” said head coach Derrick Mauger. “We can actually still win the league if we win out. The tournament sets up nicely for us because we play at home in the first round, and provided we win, we will play at Tuslaw round two against a team we are very familiar with.”
Mauger said his team is still improving.
“There is no doubt we are better than we have been in the past,” he said. “These guys have the ability and talent to compete with anyone, and their attitude is much more reflective of that than past teams have shown. We are on pace to have our best record since I took over five years ago.”
Last season, the team finished with an overall record of 10-15, including a 4-8 mark in league play.
“We finished the season by defeating Waterloo and Garrettsville to be sectional champs,” said Mauger. “We lost 2-0 to Keystone in the district semifinal.”
The coach said this year’s team brought back “a lot of veterans.”
“We returned eight letter-winners from last season,” he said.
Leading the way for Manchester this season are senior captains Cody Herman, Mitch Keim and Zack Kaufman.
“They set the pace for the entire team. When they hit, we hit. When they are vocal, the team follows. They are the key to our success,” Mauger said. “Cody Herman is a four-year letter-winner. He is our catcher, leadoff hitter and one of the unquestioned leaders of the team. Mitch Keim is a three-year letter-winner. He is 5-0 on the mound in five starts and he is also hitting over .500. Zack Kaufman is a three-year letter-winner. He is a defensive asset at third base and hits in the cleanup spot.”
In addition, the coach said, a number of other players are making key contributions to the team this season.
“Dylan Lehmier plays first base and provides experience to the team and also relief pitching. Cody Miller plays leftfield and pitches for us. Both of them are having a solid senior year,” he said. “Jake Bumgarner is playing a great centerfield and does a nice job hitting and pitching for us. Evan Griffiths’ record (1-5) does not show it, but he has done a great job on the mound. Most of his losses are because of a lack of run support and errors. And Chandler Stahl and Allan Betz are also having good seasons.”
According to Mauger, pitching has been the strength of this year’s team.
“Our pitchers keep us in ballgames,” he said. “Our starters have been very good and we have thrown more complete games than in the past. Mitch, Evan, Jake, Chandler and Cody Miller all attack the strike zone well and give us a chance to win.”
Leading the way on the mound is Keim, who is having a record-breaking season for Manchester.
“Mitch Keim broke the single-season strikeout record,” the coach said. “He has 73 on the season (the previous record was 70). Mitch also struck out 20 in an eight-inning game against Woodridge.”
At the plate, Mauger said, the team is looking for more consistency.
“We hit really well some days, and others we leave the bats on the bus. Consistency at the plate has been a focus for us. When we hit, we can hit with the best of them,” he stated. “Defensively, we play solid, then commit six errors the next outing. If we could put it together every game the rest of the season, it would be interesting to see where we end up.”
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