Whitko senior Ethan Nicodemus draws back while delivering a pitch in Wednesday's game against Manchester at Parkview Field in Fort Wayne. Photo by Anthony Gadson, Times-Union
Whitko senior Ethan Nicodemus draws back while delivering a pitch in Wednesday's game against Manchester at Parkview Field in Fort Wayne. Photo by Anthony Gadson, Times-Union
FORT WAYNE — The game was played in an unfamiliar place, but the result was all too familiar for Manchester head baseball coach Jack Rupley.
Playing at Fort Wayne’s Parkview Field, home of the San Diego Padres’ Class A affiliate Fort Wayne TinCaps, Wednesday, the Manchester Squires (1-12, 0-3 Three Rivers Conference) plated two runs in the top of the fourth, but gave up four to the Whitko Wildcats (13-6, 2-1 TRC) in the second and another six in the fourth, falling 13-9.
All season, Rupley has seen his guys battle, but have one bad inning, leading to loss after loss.
Against Whitko, that happened again, but his guys did battle back each time, scoring six in the top of the sixth to cut Whitko’s 10-2 lead to 10-7.
Whitko responded to that run with three more runs in the bottom of the frame, but Manchester once again showed resiliency, scoring two in the top of the seventh.
Within 13-9 in the bottom of the seventh, Manchester had the bases loaded before Whitko coach Erik Hisner put sophomore pitcher Riley Anderson in the game to get the final out, which was a strikeout with the tying run at the plate.
“The big thing I’m going to take away from this game is that we got down and we battled back,” Rupley said. “They came back and got three in the sixth, but then we came back and got a couple more. Our kids just keep battling and they’re getting better. If we can eliminate some of the mistakes – I keep telling them and they have to believe this too – but we can be a good ball club. We can be, if we keep things together.”
Leading 10-2 after four innings, it appeared Whitko took its foot off the gas in the bottom of the fifth, bringing three new batters off the bench, with them going down 1-2-3.
However, Hisner said the move to bring in reserves didn’t have anything to do with his team having to sweat out the win.
“Getting those guys in had nothing to do with us not making plays in sixth inning,” he said. “I was happy to get everyone in, except one guy and he was supposed to pinch hit in the sixth, before the wheels kind came off (in the top of the sixth).”
Instead of it being the skill of the players he put in, Hisner feels it’s the mentality of his starters that is letting teams hang around.
“I told them last week, they’re great kids to coach, but sometimes they’re a little too nice,” he said. “I think we’re still searching for that killer instinct, so that when we get up seven or eight, we put the other team away.”
The win was Whitko’s fourth-straight, and despite it being against a one-win team, Hisner felt his team would need to bring out the bats, especially after Manchester had a 2-0 lead four batters into the game.
“Even up 10-2, it didn't feel real comfortable,” Hisner said. “With the way they were swinging it tonight, I felt it could be one of those nights, especially after we kicked it around a little, that we were going to need to get 11, 12, 13 runs.”
Facing senior Whitko ace Ethan Nicodemus, Manchester  junior Branden Scott drew a walk to begin the game, and after a flyout, junior Thad Miller hit a single and senior Jake Semler hit an RBI-single, which Miller was also able to score on thanks to a misplay in the outfield.
After allowing three of the first four batters to reach, Nicodemus settled in, retiring nine-straight Wildcats and 14 of the next 16 going into the top of the sixth.
“He settled down real well,” Hisner said of Nicodemus, who got the win. “I think he may have been a little amped up, but who wouldn't be on this stage?”
Another theory to the slow start could have been the fact that the players weren’t allowed to take their normal fielding practice before the game, making sure the field stayed in good shape.
However, fielding wasn’t exactly the problem for Whitko, as Manchester’s hits were hit solidly in gaps.
“They were actually in the cage second, so they got on the field later than we did,” Hisner said, mentioning the players actually took fielding practice in Parkview’s batting cages rather than on the field. “Give them credit. They’ve been swinging the bats well. They had a good day against Triton Saturday and played (Class 2A No. 10) Southwood really tough (Monday).”
Miller brought the biggest Squire bat, going 3 for 4 with a double and three runs scored, while Semler was 2 for 4 with two RBIs.
For Whitko, senior Avery Robbins was 2 for 3 with two RBIs and sophomore Hunter Sroufe went 2 for 2 with, including an RBI-triple.
Despite the loss, Rupley was happy with the effort his guys showed and opportunity they had at Parkview Field.
“The kids got a chance to play at a great facility, and I really appreciate getting the opportunity to come up here and play,” he said.
Whitko hosts Bellmont Friday and Manchester’s next game is a home doubleheader Saturday against DeKalb.

M    200    005    2    –    9    9    4
W    040    603    x    –    13    8    4
Whitko – Ethan Nicodemus (W, 6IP, 7R, 3ER, 7H, 3K, 1BB), Zach Snep (7, 2/3IP, 2R, 2ER, 2H, 0K, 2BB, 1HB), Riley Anderson (7, S, 1/3IP, 0R, 0H, 1K, 0BB) and Seth Patrick, Garrett Cokl (6), Patrick (7).
Manchester – Noah Johnson (L, 3IP, 9R, 8ER, 5H, 1K, 4BB), Dellynn Benton (4, 3IP, 4R, 2ER, 2H, 4K, 1BB) and Thad Miller.
2B – Nicodemus (W), Miller (M).
3B – Hunter Sroufe (W).
Records: Whitko 13-6 (2-1 TRC), Manchester 1-12 (0-3 TRC).