Hot-hitting Saints to host UBL league leaders

Manistee’s leading hitter, Alex Strickland (29) scores a run earlier this season. Strickland is batting .440 going into this weekend’s games against the league-leading Oil City Stags. (News Advocate file photo)

Manistee’s leading hitter, Alex Strickland (29) scores a run earlier this season. Strickland is batting .440 going into this weekend’s games against the league-leading Oil City Stags. (News Advocate file photo)

MANISTEE — The Manistee Saints will face the toughest challenge of their Great Lakes United Baseball League campaign this weekend, when the league-leading Oil City Stags come to Rietz Park.

The defending UBL champion Stags have lost only one league game this season, and sit atop the standings two games ahead of the second-place Saints, who would tie for the league lead with three wins, and take over the top spot alone with a sweep of Saturday’s and Sunday’s doubleheaders.

As one might expect from the top two teams in the league, Manistee manager Tyrone Collins expects four tight games over the weekend.

“They hit the ball all over the park, their pitching is very strong and their defense, for the most part, is very strong,” Collins said. “But, at the same time they’re a very beatable team. As long as we show up and do what we’re capable of doing, putting the ball in play, keeping the walks to a minimum and limiting defensive mistakes, I think it’s going to be some good, low-scoring baseball.”

Collins will hand the ball to Manistee newcomer Cam Fewless to start the series opener on Saturday in his Rietz Park debut.

Fewless played his high-school ball at Traverse City Central before going downstate to Lansing Community College, where he posted a career ERA of 4.08, and racked up 64 strikeouts in 81 2/3 innings pitched in his two years with the Stars.

Fewless pitched last weekend in Saginaw in his first game for the Saints, giving up four earned runs and striking out four in a 5-1 loss to the Collegiate Braves, but was a little wild, walking seven batters in the contest.

Collins said that Fewless may have been a little rusty, not having pitched to live batters since the end of the college season, which for LCC was back on May 17.

“It was good to get him some work,” Collins said. “He threw (in the) bullpen this week and looked really sharp, so hopefully he worked out some of the rust.”

That 5-1 loss was the only game in which the Saints have scored fewer than three runs all season. Manistee has a team batting average of .278, a team slugging percentage of .800 and has scored an average of over 6.5 runs per game.

“I think our offense, comparing this year to last, is 100 percent better,” Collins said. “Last year we were struggling to score runs virtually at all, and this year for the most part we’re putting up some pretty crooked numbers.”

The Saints have five batters who have played in at least 10 games batting .295 or better led by two hitting over .400, Alex Strickland and Nick Brzezinski.

Strickland is batting .440, with an OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging average) of 1.282. He has a team-high 19 RBI and has scored 13 runs this season in 15 games played. Strickland and Trenton Smiley lead the team with 3 home runs each this season.

Brzezinski is hitting .433 with a team-high 21 runs scored. His OPS is 1.126, he has driven in 13 runs and leads the team with five stolen bases.

Lucas Richardson is batting .314 with 16 hits in 16 games played this season, Travis McCormick is hitting .308 and Preston Shazri is batting .295.

Fewless and Kyle Gorski will pitch the two games of Saturday’s doubleheader, and Robin Van Orden and Tyler Waslowski will take the mound on Sunday.

First pitch on both days at Rietz Park will be at 1 p.m.

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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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