UNIONTOWN — Shawn Hampt came back down the hillside to retrieve a piece of paper that had been taped to the outside of the visiting dugout at Francis Scott Key High School.
Manchester Valley’s baseball coach removed a small sign with the phrase “So What” visible on the front, and took it with him as he made his way back up the incline toward his team’s bus. For Hampt’s Mavericks, it’s a simple strategy. But it seems to be effective.
If an umpire makes a call you don’t agree with, let it go. If a play doesn’t get made in the field, the next one will. Batters might miss a pitch once or twice, but eventually they’ll make contact.
Man Valley opened its season Thursday with a 6-2 road victory, and Hampt said he was pleased with the effort.
“The kids were finally knocking the cobwebs off,” the coach said. “They finally seemed to settle in and find their rhythm there in the last two innings.”
The Mavs held a 2-1 lead before scoring four runs in the seventh, and Hampt said he liked their composure in dealing with a pitcher’s duel for most of the afternoon. Some of the success perhaps stems from the “So What” mindset each player is trying to display.
Hang in there, play hard, and things tend to work out.
“It was awesome,” MV’s Kyle Scott said about finally getting on a diamond for an official game.
Manchester Valley’s junior shortstop did his part with a two hits, one of which was a double, an RBI, and two runs scored. Tommy Murray, a senior first baseman, added two RBIs and two hits. And Eddie Meredith, another junior, came up with an RBI double in the seventh that helped break the game open.
Francis Scott Key stayed close behind solid pitching from starter Kyle Williams. The senior went four innings and allowed two unearned runs before the Eagles cut MV’s lead in half in the fifth.
Ryan Bennett’s RBI single brought home pinch-runner Reese Sauter, making it 2-1, and Key loaded the bases with one out and Justin Haines at the plate. Hampt went to his second pitcher of the inning, using Garrett Vonella to replace Jack Metz after Metz came on in relief of starting pitcher Ty Morris.
Haines made solid contact on a Vonella delivery — right to second baseman Meredith, who then threw to Murray first to double up a runner and end the inning.
That frame started with potential bad news for FSK. Junior catcher Jarrett Hise, one of the team’s top returning players from last season, went down after being hit on his right wrist by a Metz fastball leading off the inning.
Hise left the game and did not return.
The home team took advantage of some fielding miscues in the seventh to score their other run. Bennett led the offense with two hits. But FSK finished with 13 runners left on base.
Still, new coach Todd Hartshorn praised his bunch for their energy level and enthusiasm in the team’s first game of the year.
“To have my guys come out and compete, and just keep competing, to face adversity in having [Hise] go down … we hope it’s not a traumatic injury,” Hartshorn said. “I couldn’t ask for more. They’ve worked hard for me since Day 1. So, I’m blessed.”
Man Valley began a stretch of five games in six days, and Hampt said the Mavs are motivated to make another run at a Class 3A West Region title. They got to the championship game in 2018 but lost to Thomas Johnson, and finished 10-10.
One of this year’s goals is to string together some wins early in the season, Hampt said. MV is hoping Thursday’s game started a streak.
“We started off slow but we came together and we were loud in the dugout,” Scott said. “We came together as a team.”
Manchester Valley 000 200 4 — 6 6 4
Francis Scott Key 000 010 1 — 2 6 4
MV-Ty Morris, Jack Metz (5), Garrett Vonella (5) and Brett DeWees; FSK-Kyle Williams, Brody Brilhart (5), Travis Fullerton (7) and Jarrett Hise, Mike Jones (6). 2B: MV-Kyle Scott, Eddie Meredith. WP: Morris. LP: Williams.