By Greg Gielczyk
BATTLESTREAM — Lucas Richardson produced the biggest hit of 13 for the Manistee Saints in Friday afternoon’s 6-5 win over the Hackensack Troasts.
Richardson hit a two-run single and preserved the Saints’ perfect record in the National Amateur Baseball Federation World Series in Battle Creek.
Manistee couldn’t put a run on the board for four innings and was sent back on his heels when the Troasts got five runs in the fifth.
It could have been a devastating, even crushing blow. But the Saints are used to being in such situations and responded with four points alone in the fifth.
Which set the stage for Richardson’s seventh-inning heroism, with the Saints all the way to their final and desperate to advance to Saturday’s playoff round with some momentum.
While a loss wouldn’t have knocked the Saints out of the tournament, it would almost certainly have left a sour taste in their mouths.
“We really wanted to make sure we won this one,” player/manager Roddy MacNeil said. “A lot of credit to the team for fighting hard and really wanting to be 3-0 down.
“It would have been really easy to settle for 2-1, thinking it was good enough. But that wasn’t their mindset. It’s been like that all season.
Saints point guard in the final inning, Jake Finkbeiner, drilled a liner down the middle. But the next two batters were retired in order, and things looked a bit grim.
But, as MacNeil said, the Saints kept on fighting.
Alex Schmitt clung to home plate, working a 3-and-1 count before taking the ball four and walking. Richardson then stepped up to the plate and smashed a single to the center, sending Finkbeiner and Schmitt home.
Close games are nothing new for the Saints.
“We played one-point, two-point and three-point games,” MacNeil said. “We have won some and we have lost some. I think all of that experience really started to add up.
“You come to a crucial game like this, or a game you have to win, and it’s a testament to what the team has been trying to learn and develop, and do all year.”
Dylan Bates was the beneficiary of the Saints’ rally, collecting the victory on the pitcher’s mound, scattering four hits and giving up a run in 3 1/3 innings. He scratched one.
Starter Todd Schmitt, also an assistant coach, worked the first 3 2/3 innings and allowed four runs on just two hits with two strikeouts.
The Saints swept both games Thursday, beating the South Bend Royals, 10-5, then overcoming a three-point deficit with a big eight-point sixth to pull back the Orioles, 12-5.
Next up for the Saints is a game at 2 p.m. Saturday to begin the elimination phase of the series. The championship game is scheduled for Sunday.