BATTLE CREEK — A 5-0 lead nearly evaporated for the Manistee Saints, but they hung on for a tight 6-4 victory over the North Jersey Sox in their first game of pool play in the National Amateur Baseball Federation World Series in Battle Creek on Thursday.
The Saints extended their winning streak to 18 games and improved their record to 24-6, jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Although they were gave up the lead, the Saints had some scary moments in the final three innings.
“It was a good way to start off the tournament, that’s for sure,” Saints’ player/manager Roddy MacNeil said. “Tournament play you’re always trying to save arms, and Kyle (Gorski, who started the game on the mound) was definitely economic with his pitches.
“He did see the lineup four times, though, and I think as you get more familiar with a pitcher you get better swings. Credit to the Brooklyn team for being pretty tough, and putting pressure on us at the end.
“I think what it did was it definitely allowed us to get a little bit of a learning experience. We made a couple of mental mistakes in that last inning, too, I think because of the situation. It was a good learning moment.”
Gorski improved his record to 5-1, surrendering four runs on six hits over seven innings. He struck out four, and walked only two batters.
The Saints backed Gorski, who is also an assistant coach, with eight hits with Brett Zimmerman the only Saints player with two hits. He drove in one run and scored three himself.
Keaton Peck, Alex Strickland, MacNeil, Jacob Finkbeiner, Martin Foley and Lucas Weinert each had one hit. Strickland’s was a double. Sam Schmitt, Finkbeiner, Peck and Foley each drove in a run. The Saints left eight runners on base and had two errors.
“Basically, everybody contributed,” MacNeil said. “It was really good to see us really just kind of pick up where we left off last week. Just show up and just get back into the swing of things.
“The defense was stellar. Later on, when they put some pressure on us, we definitely made some of those mental mistakes. You need those to happen so we can learn and not make them later on.”
After Gorski retired the Sox in order in the top of the first inning, the Saints tallied three runs in the bottom half to open a quick lead.
Strickland got things started with a one-out double. He advanced to third on a single by MacNeil. With two outs, Zimmerman drove in Strickland with a single. MacNeil came home when Finkbeiner singled, and Peck’s single to right scored Zimmerman.
The Saints scored two more runs in the bottom of the third to increase their lead to 5-0. Lucas Richardson led off the inning with a walk, and Zimmerman followed with a single.
Peck walked with one out, and Richardson advanced to third and Zimmerman went to second on an error. The Sox pitcher was called for a balk to force in Richardson, and Foley stroked a run-scoring single.
Manistee scored its final run in the bottom of the fifth after the Sox had cut the lead to 5-2. Weinert’s single with two outs loaded the bases, and Schmitt’s walk forced in the run.
“I know we’re on a pretty good run, and everything is pretty good for us baseball-wise. You come into a tournament like this and there’s a little self doubt,” MacNeil said.
“You’re kind of, ‘Are we what we think we are? Is this what’s going to happen?’ To be able to execute and then win that game, it definitely gives us that confidence.”
The Saints are scheduled to play the Addison Braves at Bailey Park this morning at 11:30, and then take on a team to be determined at 6:30 p.m.
If they win at least one of those games, the Saints will advance out of pool play and start bracket play for the World Series title on Saturday.