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

BATTLE CREEK — Bottom of the seventh, two outs, down by a 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 game of pool play against Hackensack on Friday at Bailey Park.

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

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

“He did a great job leaving a couple of close pitches that I think were ones the pitches that the (opposing pitcher) was trying to get (Richardson) out on,” Saints player/manager Roddy MacNeil said. “We had some good days running where we stole second and third (base) and then Lucas came up with that huge hit to right center and, I mean, he crushed it. Great at bat.

“Exactly what we needed from Iron Man.”

The Saints finish pool play at a flawless 3-0 and will be one of the tournament’s eight teams to compete for a World Series title this weekend.

“Going 3-0 is a good accomplishment, 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 play. We didn’t go 3-0 in pool play last year, but we advanced through pool play and got bounced in the quarterfinals. We ‘re really excited for kind of a little bit of redemption at that and hopefully being able to kind of turn the table a little bit.”

After a silent three innings from both squads, the Troasts put up five runs in the fourth to earn a stranglehold on the momentum. That was until the bottom of the fifth inning.

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

Todd Schmitt allowed four unearned runs off two hits, two walks and two strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings of work. Dylan Bates allowed one earned run off four hits while earning one punch out in 3 1/3 innings of relief.

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

Thursday night comeback

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

Momentum shifted ever so slightly for the Saints in their half of the fifth, adding two runs off a passed ball and an RBI knock from Stephen Weinert to cut the deficit down to 5-4. After MacNeil earned three-straight flyouts in the bottom portion of the inning, Manistee fully uncovered its mojo in the sixth.

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

Passinault finished 3-for-5 with three RBI. Strickland, Weinert and Reid earned six hits each and combined for five RBI.

MacNeil allowed five runs, four earned, off five hits with four walks and three strikeouts. He did not allow a hit in the game’s final three innings.

“(Chicago Lombard is) a really good program, been a really good team for a number of years now,” MacNeil said. ” I think they definitely are a team to beat here. They’re always a final four type of team. I think this is a it’s a big momentum. It’s a big kind of confidence builder. Those were really good arms that we faced and we had some really good at bats.”

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