Bellevue coach Andy Dennings is curious how Heidelberg baseball coach Matt Palm will use Alex Manner.
That’s because Dennings used Manner to fill numerous roles for the Redmen the last three years.
“They could use him on the mound, in the outfield, at either corner infield spot and in the lineup,” Dennings said. “He can hit right away. I’m very interested to see what they do with him. He can fill a lot of holes.
“Alex is a baseball player. He’s got a lot of tools. He’s well rounded — throwing, running, hitting, instincts. It’s a credit to Alex. When you bring a lot to the table it’s hard to choose where to plug him in. He can hit with power, he can hit all over the field and he can lay down a bunt,” Dennings said. “Combine that with his baseball knowledge and there’s a lot to work with.”
Manner hit third in the Bellevue lineup from the time he joined varsity.
“You don’t put a sophomore there unless you have to normally, but we knew what he could do,” Dennings said.
Manner hit .300 as a sophomore, .370 as a junior and .483 as a senior. His average last season was third-best in program history as part of a strong lineup.
“He could hit but over the course of his career he learned which pitches he could handle and where he could hit them,” Dennings said. “His plate discipline – he got better with his confidence and understanding.”
Manner established a school record for hits in a season with 43 as a senior. He had a hit in 22 of 26 games, including 14 with at least two hits.
Manner led the team in RBIs (34) and singles, and was second in runs, doubles (10), walks, times hit by a pitch and on-base percentage. He was just shy of 100 hits for his career.
Manner’s progression as a pitcher was not as rapid as it was at the plate. He always had a little sizzle, but lacked command.
“He needed some work on the mound, but he works hard at it,” Dennings said. “He needed some work on his mechanics and he had nice junior and senior years.”
Manner was used primarily as the closer as a junior and was 5-2 last season. He struck out 61 in 42 1⁄3 innings with a 2.81 ERA and one save.
“He had a strong arm as a sophomore, but we were deep,” Dennings said. “It was a luxury to close with Alex in league games.”
Manner struck out 15 in a victory over Willard in the sectional semifinals as a senior and 17 in one game as a junior.
“I was mowing kids down,” he said of Willard. “I threw a lot of strikes. My stuff was working that day.”
Manner started all three of Bellevue’s postseason games as a senior. The Redmen earned a district title his sophomore season after a thrilling comeback against Lexington in the semifinals.
“He became a dominant high school pitcher,” Dennings said.
Manner was discouraged that his only two losses as a senior came to Northern Ohio League champion Norwalk. There are other snapshots, however, that better tell the story of Manner’s campaign.
One of the losses came after the game was tied 0-0 through five innings and had to be finished at a later date.
“Norwalk is a very good team,” Dennings said. “He pitched well, we just didn’t get the outcome we wanted.”
Manner filled in at first base as a sophomore because of injuries. As a junior, he slid over to third base to replace his graduated brother, Adam. Alex also gobbled up some of the innings on the mound vacated by his brother. The Manner brothers will become teammates again at Heidelberg.
“It’s cool to see what those guys did with us and then to see them continue their careers together,” Dennings said. “It will be exciting. They get along. Adam will provide Alex with some guidance.”
The Manners will reunite at Heidelberg. Adam returned from an arm injury last season to go 5-2 with a 3.71 ERA in 15 appearances, mostly out of the bullpen.
Each was first-team all-district and played in the Mizuno All-Star Game as seniors at Bellevue.
“I haven’t thought about it too much,” Manner said. “I’m thinking about the team but it will be fun to play with him again. It’s cool.
“He seems excited. He’ll get on me like high school. He expects a lot out of me.”
Manner was also attracted to potential new bonds at Heidelberg.
“The family-oriented feeling is awesome,” he said. “Coach Palm is an awesome guy. He’s welcoming and he’s excited to get everybody down there.”
Manner always had college baseball fantasies and Heidelberg looked like the place to be watching them as a junior. The two started talking last season.
“They were .500 last season,” Manner said. “They expect more and hopefully we’ll just keep getting better. They expect that.
“They expect to win and that’s why I want to keep playing ball — to compete.”
Manner will focus on his education as well.
“He studies the game and he wants to learn more,” Dennings said. “I expect him to take another step at Heidelberg and have a nice career.”