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Manning High School

Return to play-offs have Monarchs eyeing next step on diamond

By Jeff Staser

Staff Writer

Manning – With the Monarchs hitting the playoffs for the first time in four years on the baseball diamonds and a third place finish in Region 3A-8, the Manning High School team is looking to take another step in the 2018 season.

“We doubled our program wins this year,” Coach Steve Crisanti said, “and that’s between the varsity and junior varsity team. It was a roller coaster ride, but we took a step in the right direction.”

The Monarchs got off to a “slow start” according to Crisanti before rolling off three wins in week two, followed by a 2-1 mark in week three. The season also included a four game losing streak and some key region wins that lifted the Monarchs to a third place finish in the region. Manning dropped both games in the playoffs.

“I thought we’d be able to take that step with a playoff win<’ Crisanti said, “but Lake City got away from us with errors, and our final game escaped us after leading the game.”

There is plenty to look forward to however, on the Manning diamond. The Monarchs lose only three seniors, although the loss is noteworthy. Senior center fielder Jessie Surratt finished the season with the team’s third best batting average and will be named the team’s Defensive Player of the Year for 2017. He has played in the program since the seventh grade.

“It seems like he’s been playing 100 years,” Crisanti joked. “He kept everyone going all of the time.”

Senior Eric Johnson was unexpectantly asked to assume catching duties and made the move from his traditional infield position. He ended the season’s final two regular season games going 7-8 at the plate.

“He threw out a bunch of people and really stepped up,” Crisanti added. “He gave us a presence behind the plate that we really needed.”

Senior Nik McArthur also beat the odds, returning from a broken back, injured arm and illness to provide a game tying RBI in extra innings during a key victory over Timberland.

Now, Crisanti hopes it’s his sophomore laden team that will step up to the next level.

“We have a really young team, but they are baseball players and they are athletes,” the coach said. “We need to grow up.”

One of the keys will be the continued development of this year’s biggest surprise, freshman Trevin Harrison.

“Harrison was slated for the junior varsity,” Crisanti said, “but he was raking at the JV level so we brought him up. He just gets the game”

Harrison went on to lead the team in average, hits, triples and slugging percentage. His season included a six inning stint on the mount against Lakewood.

An arsenal of sophomore arms will also be key to the Manning 2018 season. Sandy Johnson led the team with three wins and also led the team in ERA. Chandler Evans and Johnathan Baltzegar will lead the rotation for the Monarchs.

“We need to increase our velocity and improve our second and third strikes,” Crisanti said.

 With all of that talent returning, Crisanti still pointed to the catching position as the potential key to just how far the Monarchs can go next year. Freshman Daniel Gamble will attempt to make the move to varsity.

“He’s going to be a big key next year,” Crisanti said. “Our hitting will come, and we’ll have the arms, but if we aren’t able to keep guys honest on the bases and call a game behind the plate we’ll have some problems.”

 

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