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Watching football highlights leads to Mann creating more Friday Night Lights fireworks


A fulfilling finish for Nixa Friday produced favorable feelings in regard to the Eagles playing under Friday Night Lights.

Nixa threatened to 10-run rule Eureka, before going the distance for a 9-4 triumph.

Perhaps not surprisingly, some of the Eagles’ football players enjoyed a big night. Center fielder Wyatt Vincent, right fielder Adam McKnight and third baseman Parker Mann all homered.

Mann purposely put himself in football mode.

“At school today, I was watching some of my highlights from football to get me hyped up,” said Mann, who one was one SWMO’s best defensive backs last fall. “Tonight brought back some memories. I love being under the lights, just like football. About half the town showed up tonight and our dugout was loud.

“It's easier for me to see the ball at night,” he added. “I feel like I see it better (at-bat), with everything black in the background and the lights coming down.”

Nixa and Eureka still started things at 4:30 p.m., only their jayvees played first, followed by the main event.

“I would switch (the varsity and jayvee games) every day if I could,” Eagles coach Logan Hughes said.

“I wish we had more games starting at 6:30-6:45,” McKnight said. “It's fun playing under the lights and the dugout was definitely a lot louder tonight.”

Mann and McKnight actually already had played under the lights this season, having served time on Nixa’s jayvee to help set them up for success on the varsity.

Mann won a starting job at second base to open the season, but a string of strikeouts had him searching for answers on the jayvee.

“I had a rocky start to the season,” Mann said. “(A season-opening trip to) California was rough for me and I came back here and had a rough game against Glendale. I got put down to the jayvee to square things out and get my confidence back up. You can't have a bad mindset (on the jayvee). I knew why I was down there and knew I had to get better.”

Mann got momentum back on his side by hitting a homer on the jayvee at Willard earlier this week. 

“I wasn't doing much (on the jayvee), either, until I hit that bomb,” he said. “Then, it all clicked for me. My confidence skyrocketed. It put me back to being the player I know I am.”

Mann’s three-run homer Friday was a line drive down the left-field line.

“I knew I got all of it, but didn't know if (it would clear the fence) because I hit it on a line,” Mann said. “Rounding the bases, when I got halfway to second I could hear our dugout and that put a big smile on my face. I love all these guys. They're my brothers. The energy they bring is amazing.”

It’s been a bit surprising Mann exploded on the football scene prior to making an impact on the ball diamond. He’s always considered himself a baseball player first and foremost.

“Great athletes can usually succeed at multiple sports (and) he's a great athlete,” Hughes said. “When you play with confidence, you usually play better and it's taken him a little while to relax and just play. Part of that is not getting a lot of opportunities and then when you get opportunities you're trying to get more of them and you press a little bit, Now, he's starting to relax.”

All along, Mann’s defense at both second and third has produced some of Nixa's top highlights on the season.

“I take a lot of pride in my defense,” Mann said. “If I'm not hitting well, I should probably play good defense to stay in the lineup. I feel very comfortable (at second and third), especially with Caeden (Cloud) at short. He's one of my best friends and having him there and talking to him during a game keeps me in check.”

Nixa (15-9) jumped on Eureka (16-7) for three run in the first inning, a single tally in the second, four in the third and one more in the fifth. The Eagles loaded the bases in the fifth in an effort to win via the 10-run rule, but ended up having to go the full seven.

Nixa’s offense has been a bit inconsistent, and to that end, Hughes employed the same shuffled lineup Friday the Eagles won with at Webb City on Thursday. Among the notable changes are left fielder Rylan Michel hitting leadoff, DH Caleb Jones hitting second, Vincent hitting third and McKnight inserted to the fifth hole.

Nixa is averaging 5.6 run a game, the lowest offensive norm for the Eagles since 2017. They are 2-6 when scoring three runs or less. 

Hughes likes the shock factor the lineup changes have triggered.

“We wanted to change some things up and get some guys in different spots,” Hughes said. “Sometimes, you change the lineup and the energy is different. To be honest, the energy, enthusiasm and intensity have been better. I think that has carried over to our offense.

“You change things up, you see if you can spark something. It has changed our attitude and sense of urgency,” he added. “We’re hustling more, picking each other up better and talking more. We got into an ‘expect to win’ mentality, which is good. But we're realizing we've got to go do it, we've got to find ways to win and make it happen.”