Thunder Baseball Drops Opening Series

McPherson, KS - The Manhattan Christian College Thunder men's baseball team opened their 2016 campaign with a 4 game series against an in-state NAIA opponent, the Central Christian College Tigers. The Tigers came into the series against Thunder with a record of 7-3, they were able to improve on that record, winning all 4 games against MCC over the weekend, completing the sweep. 

The Thunder, playing in their first games of the season, and first games under new head coach Jimmy McDonald, the young and inexperienced Thunder team improved a lot throughout the four games. Since the hiring of McDonald in June of 2015, he and his staff have been vigorously hitting the recruiting trail in order to bring exceptional talent, and players with a team oriented mindset to Manhattan. They have done just that, as the Thunder's roster of 21 players is made up of an astonishing 17 freshman, 2 sophomores, 1 junior, and a lone senior in Ben Rankin.

Despite the player's inexperience in collegiate baseball, coach McDonald and the Thunder aren't looking to let that deter them from winning games, and improving as a team. The matchup with Central Christian College was a good chance for them to be able to gauge what types of things needed the most work, and where they are at compared to where they want to be. 

Below is a breakdown of each game in the 4 game series, which included two double-headers that were spread out between the Friday and Saturday road trip for the Thunder.

GAME 1:

Sophomore Isaiah Katherein got the starting nod for the Thunder, and pitched 5 full innings where he gave up 9 runs on 9 hits, and threw a total of 103 pitches. He would be relieved by freshman Corey Reifler who gave up 2 runs of his own, on four Tiger hits. The offensive side of the game was a bit of a struggle for the Thunder as well, as they were only able to put together 3 runs off of 8 hits as a team. Freshman outfielder Jan Elias had a big game at the plate, as he effeciently brought in two runs on his own off of two hits. Defensively freshman catcher Kenneth Torres recorded seven putouts, while freshman firstbaseman Matthew Zecha brought in six.

The Thunder would fall to Central in the first game of the double-header Friday, 11-3

GAME 2:

In the second game of the Friday double-header, defensive struggles and pitching proved to be the deciding factor. The Thunder used three different pitchers in this one, starting freshman lefty Landrey Anders who went just three innings giving up 14 runs on 12 hits. He would be relieved by freshman Seth Throckmorton who would pitch in relief for two innings giving up 6 runs of his own, on 4 hits before he was relieved by junior Jacob Johansen. This game was just not to be for the Thunder as they able to get nine players on base throughout the game, but were only able to drive in 2 of those for runs. 

The Friday matchup would end with the Tigers again on top, this time pummeling the Thunder with a final score of 20-2.

GAME 3:

The third game of the series, and first of the Saturday double-header for the Thunder was one that saw a young MCC team come out with what seemed to be a new life. Behind four innings from their starter, freshman Kellen Quick, and two innings from his relief man freshman Gerardo Questell the Thunder were able to hold the Tigers to just 5 runs on 9 hits in the game. Manhattan turned on the bats as well as they racked in 7 hits, but were only able to bring 4 of those hits in to score, leaving them just a run short of the Tigers. Joshua Sanabria and Alexander Lopez, a pair of freshman for the Thunder were both able to contribute two hits and an RBI each to help Manhattan keep this one close throughout. 

The Tigers would take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series, by topping the Thunder in the first of two games on Saturday, 5-4.

GAME 4:

The final game of the series was another defensive battle between the two squads, with both teams having their pitcher throw a complete game. Senior Ben Rankin got the start for the Thunder, and gave up only 3 runs on 8 hits throughout the game. Keeping his count right at 90 pitches for the game, Rankin was able to methodically wear down batters and rely on his defense to get him out of any trouble he got himself in to. With 20 total putouts in the game, led by freshman Harry Rodriguez with 5, the game came down to the eighth inning where MCC would fall just short, unable to drive in the tying run. 

The Central Christian College Tigers would take the fourth game of the series to complete the sweep of the Thunder over the weekend. 

"We just did not come out with the right mindset for games 1 and 2 and it showed. We are a young team with good talent that needs to continue to mature. Saturday was a much better day for us overall as our energy and focus was much better. We are hoping to be playing our best baseball by the end of the year as we are staying committed to the process. They were a good team that is well coached and a lot of credit goes to their coaching staff. We are looking forward to getting back to practice this week and improving," head coach Jimmy McDonald said.

Manhattan will be back in action this Friday and Saturday in Junction City, KS as they will face Grace University (Omaha, NE) for a four game series that will include a double-header Friday, and Saturday respectively. 

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