PREVIEW: Last call for Saints baseball in 2018

Manistee’s Trenton Smiley slides into third base during the Saints’ four-game sweep of Midland last weekend. Smiley was called out on a close play.  (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

Manistee’s Trenton Smiley slides into third base during the Saints’ four-game sweep of Midland last weekend. Smiley was called out on a close play. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — If you haven’t taken in a Manistee Saints baseball game at Rietz Park this season, your last chance is coming this weekend.

The Saints will pay their last home games, a four-game series against the Michigan Collegiate Braves, which will also be the last games on the Great Lakes United Baseball League slate.

Manistee goes into the series on a bit of a roll, having won six games in a row and eight of its last 10, and with a UBL title still possible.

The Saints would eclipse the 20-win mark with three wins this weekend, which the team has achieved only once in the last six seasons, and only 10 times in the 84-year history of the club.

The Saints trail league-leading Oil City by a single game in the UBL standings, and can claim at least a share of the crown with a sweep, and if Oil City slips up at least once in their series at the Michigan Sports Academy.

But Manistee manager Tyrone Collins said that he will not be concerned with out-of-town results.

“We’ve just got to take care of our business,” Collins said. “We’re feeling pretty good, we’re playing good baseball, and we feel really good about the position we’re in.”

The Saints have continued hitting the ball, raising their team batting average to a remarkable .284 in their four-game sweep of Midland last weekend.

Despite nursing a nagging shoulder injury, Alex Strickland has led that powerful Saints batting order with a .446 batting average, one of five players who are hitting .350 or above, and a team-high 19 RBI. 

Trenton Smiley leads the team with 4 of the squad’s 9 home runs this season, and leadoff hitter Nick Brzezinski has scored a team-high 26 runs and is batting a scorching .388.

But there is always room for improvement. Collins said that running the bases properly will be a point of emphasis going forward.

“Last weekend, I wasn’t happy with our baserunning,” Collins said. “We ran ourselves out of innings a few times on just plain dumb baserunning mistakes, things we should not be doing at this level of baseball. I have to be a little careful, because I’ve pushed the envelope trying to score a couple of guys and got guys thrown out at the plate, but there is a difference between being a little aggressive and flat-out making a mistake.”

Probable starting pitchers for the Saints are Cam Fewless (1-2) and Robin Van Orden (5-1) on Saturday and Kyle Gorski (1-2) and Tyler Waslawski (4-0) on Sunday.

Van Orden is the undisputed ace of the staff, with a 1.56 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 40 1/3 innings pitched. Only Gorski, with 21 2/3 IP, has pitched more than 20 innings for the Saints this season.

“I can’t say enough about our pitching,” Collins said. “Robin Van Orden are guys who, you hand them the baseball and write down a ‘W.’ My fourth spot in the rotation has basically been a battle between Kyle Gorski, Levi Irish and Andrew Childs. What I’ve had to do is alternate that spot for the start and have the other guys in relief.”

First pitch for both Saturday’s and Sunday’s doubleheaders 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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