Rodney throws perfect game, Saints sweep Bad Boys

 

Manistee Saints’ pitcher Lee Rodney throws a pitch during the Saints’ 7-0 win over the Mayville Bad Boys at Reitz Park in Manistee on Sunday. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

Manistee Saints’ pitcher Lee Rodney throws a pitch during the Saints’ 7-0 win over the Mayville Bad Boys at Reitz Park in Manistee on Sunday.
(Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — Lee Rodney ended his short stint with the Manistee Saints perfectly. Literally.

Rodney pitched a perfect game, striking out 18 of the 21 hitters he faced in the Saints’ 7-0 win over the Mayville Bad Boys in the first game of a United Baseball League doubleheader on Sunday.

The Saints’ all-time leader in most statistical categories lives in Georgia and came back to Manistee for a vacation with his family. He made the most of the second of his two games with the Saints with a gem of a game, in which a total of three balls were put in play, only one hit out of the infield.

“It was fun, man. I miss it,” Rodney said. “I miss the crowds, it’s always a good crowd, and it was a good day for baseball.”

Manistee completed the sweep with a 13-1 win, shortened to five innings by mercy rule, in the second game of the twinbill.

The sweep improves Manistee’s record to 11-6 overall, 3-3 in the UBL, and gave the holiday-weekend crowd a memorable experience.

“It was fun for the fans,” Saints manager Phil Kliber said. “We had a full house for that game, and when you come out and see a perfect game, that doesn’t happen very often.”

Mayville arrived shorthanded for the doubleheader, suiting up just nine players, but Manistee was not at full strength either. Three of the Saints’ top four hitters, Jim Virden, Kyle Gorski and Dillon Rankin, headed the list of absent players.

“We had five guys (not present), three of whom start every game for us,” Kliber said. “But it’s Fourth of July weekend, that happens. We were shorthanded too, but the people who were here played well.”

Lucas Richardson led the way at the plate for the Saints, knocking out three hits including two doubles, getting on base three other times and scoring five runs in the two games. Richardson also made a spectacular running catch in right field in the seventh inning of the first game to preserve Rodney’s perfect game.

Recent Manistee High School graduate Nolan Vander Weele had three hits, drove in three runs and Andy Fortier and Kreighton Rahn each crossed the plate three times for the Saints.

Manistee started out strong, scoring five runs in the first inning of the opener and adding two more in the second, but did not score again in the game.

”(Mayville’s pitcher) was so slow, and we don’t see anyone like that,” Kliber said. “We got a couple of hits and a couple of gift runs early, and after that we just kept popping him up. That wasn’t good batting practice for us.”

But the game was virtually over by then, with Rodney in complete control, overpowering every batter he faced.

“I told him about the third inning, ‘If you throw a change-up, I’m coming to get you,’” Kliber said. “He was just blowing the ball by everybody.

“It was obviously not the best team we’ve faced all year, but they were really outclassed by him.”

Rodney himself deflected much of the credit for the outing, and gave credit to his catcher and the umpire.

“It was the first time pitching to Travis McCormick, and after the first inning we just meshed out there,” Rodney said. “The umpire had a good strike zone. He was giving a little bit on each corner, in and out, up and down, and we were using that to our advantage.”

It was more of the same in the nightcap, which Zach Perry started with two strikeouts before giving up his only hit in three innings of work. Perry faced just 10 batters in those three innings, striking out eight of them.

Manistee only batted in four innings in the second game due to the mercy rule, but scored in each of those innings on the way to a 13-1 rout. Joe Kligman had a 2-out, 2-run single in the third inning for the Saints.

Next up, a huge Gratiot County League game on Wednesday against Oil City in Cadillac. Manistee stayed in the league title hunt with last Sunday’s split at league-leading Ionia, and need to win to stay within striking distance of the top of the standings.

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