Saints split weekend with Oil City

Manistee catcher Preston Shazri (left) tags out Oil City’s Alec Lockwood (24) at the plate during the Saints’ 1-0 win over the Stags in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader at Rietz Park. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

Manistee catcher Preston Shazri (left) tags out Oil City’s Alec Lockwood (24) at the plate during the Saints’ 1-0 win over the Stags in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader at Rietz Park. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

By KYLE KOTECKI

For the News Advocate

MANISTEE — The Manistee Saints split in their four-game series against the Great Lakes United Baseball League-leading Oil City Stags over the weekend, dropping Saturday’s games 2-1 and 7-0 before righting the ship on Sunday to win the last two 1-0 and 3-2.

“I guess we can be happy with (the split) for sure,” said Manistee right fielder Lucas Richardson. “… This year so far we’ve lost a lot of games because — like Coach says — one bad inning. We just have to cut down on our walks and we’ll do better than splitting against these teams.”

The Stags (13-3) scored in the first inning of the series opener on a passed ball. The Saints (13-7) answered back in the fourth when Richardson drove in Alex Strickland with a double. Manistee walked in the deciding run in the fifth inning on a disputed ball-four call on a 3-2 pitch with two outs.

“Game one was a pretty good game,” said Manistee manager Tyrone Collins. “Hate to lose those kind of games. We lost a 2-1 ballgame on a wild pitch and on a batter that got walked after I thought we struck him out. It’s tough but it happens. … It’s a game of inches sometimes.”

Richardson finished 1-for-3 with an RBI double and Roddy MacNeil hit 3-for-4 in his 2018 Rietz Park debut.

Saints starter Cam Fewless gave up just one hit and one earned run in seven innings pitched, walking eight and striking out five.

“Last week (Fewless) was with us for the very first time and he came out very rusty and we talked a little bit about that,” Collins said. “He got some extra work in this week and showed up (Saturday) and pitched a whale of a ballgame for us. He did the job he was supposed to do. We just didn’t score runs.”

Fewless had good support from the defense, as the Saints committed no errors behind him.

“It was a lot of just needing to throw strikes,” Fewless said. “Pitching to contact and mixing up my pitches a lot. (Catcher) Preston (Shazri) called a pretty good game. I didn’t have to shake him off very often. Everything was working out. Fielders were fielding well behind us.”

Oil City took the early advantage in Saturday’s nightcap with a six-run first inning and tacked on one more in the seventh for good measure as Manistee failed to respond.

“The defense has come a long ways in the last few weeks,” Collins said. “We continue to get better every time we go out. The defense is doing its job — it’s just a day where we scored one run in two ballgames. It’s tough to win ballgames that way.”

Kyle Gorski took the bump in game two, giving up seven hits, six earned runs and six walks in five innings while striking out four. Andrew Childs threw two innings of relief, allowing three hits and no earned runs while striking out two.

Nick Brzezinski led the Saints’ offense by going 1-for-2 with a double and a walk. Shazri and Strickland both finished 1-for-3 with doubles.

Sunday’s opener was a pitchers’ duel, with Manistee’s Robin Van Orden giving up just three hits, no runs and two walks while striking out five in his seven innings pitched. Oil City’s Drew Schultz also pitched well, allowing six hits and one earned run while walking three and striking out four.

“With (Van Orden), you hand him the baseball and you pretty much write a W in the book,” Collins said. “He pitched well.”

The Saints’ lone run came in the fifth inning when Richardson drove in Logan Briggs, who saw his first action for the Saints this season on Sunday after coming off a hamstring injury during his college season.

“(Having Briggs back in the lineup) is huge,” Collins said. “It’s another quality at-bat for us for sure. He’s a spark plug on the field as well. Plays an awesome outfield and we’ve been missing him all year. It’s nice to have him back.

“We didn’t think we were going to get him back because he’s been on the injured reserve and we didn’t really plan on having him,” Collins continued. “He called me yesterday and he says ‘Coach, I’m feeling really well. Can you use me?’ And I said ‘Can you be here at 11?’”

Richardson finished the game 1-for-3 with an RBI. Strickland hit 2-for-2 with a double while Brzezinski went 2-for-3 with a double.

Manistee broke a 1-1 stalemate with the Stags in the third inning of the series finale when Richardson hit a two-RBI double. Oil City managed one more run in the fifth inning but it wasn’t enough to top the Saints.

“Richardson’s been really hitting the ball well for us all year,” Collins said. “He had the key hits this weekend for sure.”

Tyler Waslawski pitched in Sunday’s nightcap, allowing six hits and two earned runs in six innings while striking out five and walking three. Levi Irish pitched the final inning, retiring all three batters he faced and tallying one strikeout.

“Waslawski came in and did what he’s been doing,” Collins said. “He pitched a phenomenal game. He’s a bulldog. He wanted to go out there and finish the game but he was sitting at 115 pitches and I didn’t feel right. We went to the bullpen. Levi came in and did an awesome job closing it out.”

Richardson finished the game 2-for-3 with two doubles and two RBIs. Shazri hit 2-for-3 with an RBI and Briggs went 1-for-4 and scored a run.

“I just felt like I was hitting the ball really well,” Richardson said. “I was jumping on the right pitches and hitting line drives really good. I was hitting gap shots.”

Though Collins feels the Saints let a game slip away Saturday, he is happy with how his team is shaping up of late and likes how they competed against the defending UBL champions.

“That’s a very good team over there,” Collins said, regarding the Stags. “It was a good baseball weekend, really. I thought we had one bad inning over the whole weekend.”

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