Saber baseball ends season with loss to Pentwater in district final

Manistee Catholic Central third baseman Mateo Barnett (left) tags out Pentwater’s Austin Hoffmann (22) to end a rundown during their Division 4 district championship game at Mason County Eastern on Friday. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

Manistee Catholic Central third baseman Mateo Barnett (left) tags out Pentwater’s Austin Hoffmann (22) to end a rundown during their Division 4 district championship game at Mason County Eastern on Friday. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

CUSTER — One would think that Manistee Catholic Central baseball would be intimidated by the prospect of facing West Michigan D League co-champion Pentwater for the district championship.

After all, the Sabers lost to the Falcons twice earlier in the season, 19-0 and 13-3, both shortened by mercy rule.

Well, one would be wrong.

MCC gave Pentwater a bit of a scare, and even briefly led the game, before falling 13-6 at Mason County Eastern on Friday.

“It’s hard to believe that this was the same team that we lost to last year 25-0,” MCC head coach Blaise LaPrad said. “We fought for seven innings. It was the first time we’ve played a full game against that team. We played hard.”

The young Sabers essentially beat themselves, committing eight errors in the field which let the Falcons score eight unearned runs.

But MCC also made three double plays.

“There are a lot of freshmen out there, and a lot of freshman nerves,” LaPrad said. “I’m very grateful for players like (seniors) Barry Seymour and Andrea Marconi, because it’s not easy playing with a bunch of young kids.”

MCC’s big inning was the fourth, in which they scored five runs to turn a 4-1 deficit into a 6-4 lead.

Nolan Fortier had the key hit in that big fourth inning, a 2-run double that scored Justin Kuenzer and Joe Buswinka. Buswinka and Marconi also had RBI in the inning, the latter on a single that was the second of the exchange student’s two hits in the game.

But that lead was short-lived, as Pentwater came right back in the top of the fifth to score four runs of their own, two of those on a double by Max Stoneman, to regain the lead, 8-6.

The Falcons tacked on three runs in the sixth, both unearned, and two more in the seventh, again driven in by Stoneman, to make the final score 13-6.

Marconi had started his last baseball game with a long double over the Pentwater center-fielder’s head in the first inning, and then came around to score on an error.

Fortier started the game on the mound for the Sabers, giving up three earned runs on 10 hits and striking out four in 4 2/3 innings of work.

Adam Pierce came on in relief, giving up two runs on two hits and striking out two.

“I’m just so proud of my kids,” LaPrad said. “We played probably one of our better games today. Everybody was hitting very well.”

MCC finished the season with five wins officially, but three of those came by way of forfeit after Baldwin canceled its season. One of those forfeit wins was in the district semifinals, where the Sabers drew the Panthers, allowing them to walk into the district final.

The team also won two games on the field, which is two more than they won last year.

LaPrad said that the team’s long-term building program is starting to bear fruit.

“It’s hard to put into words how far we have come,” he said. “Our first day outdoors this year was against Pentwater. I am leaps-and-bounds happy with our progress. Our on-field awareness is better, we made three double plays today.

“Hitting comes and goes, you go through slumps, but knowing where to make plays has been the biggest problem the last couple of years, and it’s great to see where we’re at right now.”

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Posted by Scott Yoshonis

Scott is the sports editor of the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3112 or syoshonis@pioneergroup.com.

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