Saints chase history, prepare for NABF at Alma Invite

Manistee pitcher Tyler Waslowski will start Sunday’s game in this weekend’s three-game Alma Invitational tournament in Riverdale, Mich.  (News Advocate file photo)

Manistee pitcher Tyler Waslowski will start Sunday’s game in this weekend’s three-game Alma Invitational tournament in Riverdale, Mich. (News Advocate file photo)

MANISTEE — The Manistee Saints’ Great Lakes United Baseball League season may be over, but there is still some baseball to be played in what could be one of the best seasons in team history.

The Saints finished the UBL campaign with a record of 20-8, good for second place in the final league standings just two games out of the 2018 champion Oil City Stags. That record also gives them a winning percentage of .714, which is third-best in the 84-year history of the club.

Manistee will be able to earn a measure of revenge against the Stags this weekend, when they play each other in the Alma Invitational tournament, in preparation for the upcoming North American Baseball Federation national championship tournament.

“We’d love to go over there and win that tournament,” Manistee manager Tyrone Collins said. “But I also have to be a little realistic, I’m missing a few of my key guys this weekend.”

The Saints will face Oil City in the first game of the Alma Invitational at Lumberjack Park in Riverdale, Mich., just outside of Alma. The two UBL rivals split their four games this season, with the Stags taking the first two in a Saturday, June 23 doubleheader at Rietz Park, 2-1 and 7-0, with Manistee rebounding with a sweep the next day by scores of 1-0 and 2-1.

That game, the first of two on Saturday for the Saints, will start at 1:30 p.m. Manistee will face the Pontiac Parkers, of the high-level Pontiac Baseball League, in the second game at about 4 p.m.

 Manistee goes into the Invitational with a head of steam, having won nine of the ten games since the Oil City series.

Manistee will be without a few of its top hitters for the weekend. Nick Brzezinski (.371 batting average, team-high 26 runs scored) Logan Briggs (.348 in eight games since returning from a hamstring injury), Kenny Frieswyk and starting second baseman Jake Ryan had prior commitments, and longtime Saints stalwart Roddy MacNeil (.389 in 12 games played) has returned to Arizona.

While he’s down a few hitters, Collins will take an intact pitching staff to the tournament.

Cam Fewless will take the mound for the opener against Oil City, and Robin Van Orden will pitch against Pontiac.

The Saints will then play one more time in the tournament on Sunday, with opponent and time to be determined. Tyler Waslowski will be the Manistee starting pitcher in that game.

Collins said that the main benefit from the Invitational looking ahead to the NABF tournament is giving his pitching staff some quality work.

“It’s crucial those guys get their innings in, and not have a huge layover,” he said.

The Saints will have a distinctly youthful appearance, having called up some players from local high schools to fill in. Manistee’s Evan Bauman and Ludington’s Nate Lange and Sam Bandstra will make the trip and get a taste of elite adult baseball. Onekama’s Austin Harper has been with the team all season, and will also be on the tournament roster.

“These are some guys who we hope will be future Saints,” Collins said. “It’s really a good opportunity for a couple of high schoolers to come play and check it out. It’s good stuff.”

The NABF regional tournament will start in Saginaw on Thursday, Aug. 2.

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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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