How the Manistee Saints rallied twice in two days to stay alive

BATTLE CREEK – End of the seventh, two out, down by one run with two men in scoring position.

It’s a dream scenario for players in the 2022 NABF World Series. But for Manistee’s Lucas Richardson, it was reality in the Saints’ final pool game against Hackensack on Friday at Bailey Park.

Until his final strike, Richardson kept his composure. The next two pitches failed to prompt the man known as the team’s “Iron Man” to swing, tying the count at 2-2.

The next pitch he saw fell into center field for a base hit deep enough to tag Jake Finkbeiner and Alex Schmitt to give the Saints a 6-5 win.

“He did a great job leaving some tight pitches which I think were the ones (the opposing pitcher) was trying to get (Richardson) out on,” Saints player/coach Roddy MacNeil said. “We had good days in a row where we stole second and third (base) and then Lucas came in with this huge hit to right center and, I mean, smashed it. Great at bat.

“Exactly what we needed from Iron Man.”

The Saints end pool play with a clear score of 3-0 and will be one of eight teams in the tournament to challenge for a World Series title this weekend.

“Going 3-0 is a good achievement, but everyone here is on the same page. We’re not done,” MacNeil said. “We came here for a reason, and it wasn’t just to go 3-0 in pool. We didn’t go 3-0 in pool last year, but we improved in pool and were knocked out in the quarter-finals. We’re really excited for some sort of redemption and hopefully I can turn things around a bit.”

After three silent innings from both teams, the Troasts scored five runs in the fourth to take control of the momentum. That was until the end of round five.

A double from Tommy Reid and back-to-back walks from Dom Palamara and Finkbeiner loaded the bases, Danny Passinault only needed to see one pitch to bring the Saints to life. He hammered down the right field wall for a grand slam and cut Hackensack’s lead to 5-4.

Todd Schmitt allowed four unearned runs on two hits, two walks and two strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings of work. Dylan Bates gave up a deserved run on four hits while getting one punch in 3 1/3 innings of relief.

Richardson, Finkbeiner and Alex Strickland had six of Manistee’s nine hits.

return Thursday evening

Friday’s comeback win wasn’t the only time in this tournament the Saints had to rally. After missing the first two games in the first half of Game 1, Manistee found himself 5-2 down after two innings against the Lombard Orioles on Thursday night.

The momentum changed slightly for the Saints in their fifth half, adding two runs on a passed ball and an RBI shot from Stephen Weinert to cut the deficit to 5-4. After MacNeil won three straight flyouts in the bottom of the inning, Manistee completely bared his mojo in sixth.

Strickland, Alex Schmitt, Weinert, Reid, Finkbeiner and Passinault all earned RBI hits in an explosive eight-run inning for a convincing 12-5 lead. The Orioles got a base runner in the sixth on a walk and one in the seventh on an error by Manistee, but MacNeil landed two of his three punches of the game in the final two frames to give the Saints an emphatic victory.

Passinault went 3 for 5 with three RBIs. Strickland, Weinert and Reid had six hits apiece and combined for five RBIs.

MacNeil allowed five runs, four earned, five hits with four walks and three strikeouts. He didn’t allow a hit in the last three innings of the game.

“(Chicago Lombard is) a really good program, it’s been a really good team for a number of years now,” MacNeil said. “I think they’re definitely a team to beat here. They’re always a back four type team. I think that’s a big boost. They’re a big type of confidence builder. They’re very good arms that we faced and we had some really good batsmen.”

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