In an important region game against Northside, Hardaway pitcher Jonathan Manibusan came through in a big way for the Hawks.
Manibusan pitched seven innings of shutout baseball with six hits allowed and eight strikeouts in Hardaway's 3-0 victory over the Patriots. The win was an important one for Hardaway (10-13, 9-5) against its crosstown rival, as it keeps the Hawks in striking distance within Region 1-4A's subregion A.
"He's been more than we can ask for the last two or three weeks," Hardaway head coach Chris Gilstrap said of Manibusan. "He goes out there and competes, is the bottom line. He can throw several pitches for strikes, and he gets after hitters."
For Manibusan, settling in was a product of how the Hawks' fielders behind him took care of business.
"I was pounding it early, and I felt my defense was doing pretty good out there," Manibusan said. "I knew if I just threw the ball and hit my spots, my defense would work for me."
Not only did Manibusan hold Northside (13-12, 10-4) in check on the mound, but he also hurt the Patriots when he came to the plate. The manner in which he did so, however, was highly unusual.
Manibusan settled into the batter's box with the bases loaded in the fifth inning of a 0-0 game. He hit a groundball to Northside's shortstop, who attempted to turn a double play by throwing to second. Hardaway's runner, Alex Bemiss, got in safely, but Manibusan was then thrown out at first. The ball was then thrown back to second and Bemiss was tagged out after the nearby Northside fielder hid the ball.
Amidst the confusion, two Hardaway runners came across to score.
The inning had begun with Chandler Griggs hitting a single before advancing to second on a wild pitch and third on a passed ball. It's biggest moment culminated in a missed opportunity by Northside that still somehow netted them two outs.
"I don't think we necessarily did anything right that inning to get extra stuff as much as they did a little internal damage themselves," Gilstrap said.
The Hawks tacked on an additional run thanks to Kevin Henry's RBI single in the sixth inning.
With the regular season soon drawing to a close, Hardaway's victory over Northside means it could finish as high as second or as low as fourth in the sub region.
The winner of Northside and Columbus on Thursday will clinch the first place spot in the subregion. From there, however, it gets complicated.
If Columbus beats Northside and Hardaway beats Shaw, Hardaway holds the tiebreaker over Northside for second place. If Northside wins and Hardaway defeats Shaw, Columbus finishes second and Hardaway takes third. A Hardaway loss to Shaw leaves the Hawks in fourth.
Thanks to Manibusan's contributions, the Hawks still have an excellent shot to improve their standings before the postseason begins.
"Any win is good," Gilstrap said. "If it's a region win, it's better."
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports