Against the Valdosta State University Blazers in the first round of the NCAA South Region Baseball Tournament, the heat was on Manley the whole time as he had to deal with base runners every inning and didn’t have a perfect inning. When the dust settled however Manley and the rest of the Delta State University Statesmen (43-9-1) kept their composure as they won 4-2 to get into the winner’s bracket of the tournament against West Florida (36-12) tonight at 6 p.m. Valdosta State (33-17) was scheduled to play Stillman (30-15) in the loser’s bracket at 10 a.m. this morning.
Manley, who is now a perfect 9-0, had to get through the game by showing a lot of grit and determination. He gave up eight hits, walked four batters and hit two batters. As the day progressed, however, Manley took the field each inning and pitched out of jams. He was able to go the full nine innings throwing 143 pitches. He finished up with seven strikeouts and only one of the two runs he gave up was earned.
"Well, today a great pitching performance for Michael Manley,” Delta State head baseball coach Mike Kinnison said. “That was kind of the story. We had some big hits and opportunities that presented themselves. These games you’re not going to get a lot of opportunities. Teams are good; the pitching is good, so the story for us today was a few timely hits and Michael Manley holding them off. So we’re really excited about the win.”
Manley was backed up well by his defense as the Statesmen turned four double plays in the game. Each double play came at key times.
Manley was more than appreciative of the help he got from his teammates.
"I thought we had a good team win,” Manley said. “Defense played well behind me and the bats were good. I tried to hit my spots and I was able to get some strikes. I really just left two pitches out over the plate that they were able to hit. It was just a good team win."
In the top of the first, VSU was looking to get on the board as Hunter Thompson tagged a one out single. The DSU defense made sure that didn’t happen as Bryant Hayman hit a ground ball to shortstop Josh Crowdus. Crowdus threw to second to get Thompson and second baseman Kasey Hinton threw to Brent Langston at first base to get Hayman out for the DP and end the inning with no score.
After Manley pitched out of another jam with two runners on base in the top of the second, DSU’s offense got hot in the bottom of the inning as Hinton and Crowdus each drilled RBI-singles to a key three-run inning to give the Statesmen at 3-0 lead.
In the top of the third, Valdosta was able to get a runner on base with one out again, but Thompson hit another ground ball to Crowdus at shortstop. Crowdus threw the ball to Hinton at second for one out and Hinton ended up throwing to Langston at first base for another inning ending double play to keep the game at 3-0.
In the bottom of the third, the Statesmen added another run as Langston drilled a RBI-single to make the score 4-0.
As the game progressed, Manley continued to battle and keep runners stranded on the base paths, as the score remained 4-0 after the first five innings.
In the top of the sixth, Hayman crushed a lead off home run for VSU to cut DSU’s lead to 4-1. After the next batter, Jake Fields, was hit by a pitch Manley was able to get the ground ball working again. Michael Gouge hit the ball to Tyler Aldridge at third base. Aldridge threw the ball to Hinton at second to get Fields out, and Hinton made another throw to Langston for DSU’s third double play to make it two outs in the inning. Manley ended up getting out of the inning with no further damage as he struck out Jamie McMillian to keep the score at 4-1.
DSU’s defense ended up having a let down in the top of the seventh as two throwing errors contributed to Valdosta scoring its second run of the game, cutting DSU’s lead to 4-2.
In the top of the eighth, VSU had another rally going as the team had runners at first and second with one out. McMillian was looking to get a big hit, but he ended up hitting a line drive that was caught by Michael Vinson in left field. Vinson ended up making the throw to Hinton at second to get a base runner out for another inning ending double play to keep the score at 4-2.
The Blazers had one more chance at a rally in the bottom of the ninth as they had runners at second and third with one out. Manley ended up buckling down one more time and retired the next two batters to end the game and nail down the victory.
DSU went 3-for-6 (.500) at the plate with runners in scoring position, while VSU went 0-for-7.
Peter Whittingslow (6-2) suffered the loss for VSU on the mound as he gave up four runs on 10 hits with three strikeouts and two walks in seven innings of work.
Kingsley nailed three hits and scored a run to lead DSU at the plate, followed by Langston with two hits, a RBI and a run, Aldridge with two hits and a run, Crowdus with two hits and a RBI.
Nick Rodda nailed two hits and drove in a run to lead VSU at the plate, followed by Hayman with a home run.