Gielczyk: Manistee Saints off to Strong Start in 2019
After going 11-21 in 2017, the Saints rebounded last year with a 22-12 finish and second place in the Great Lakes United Baseball League.
It was only the 11th time in the team’s 85-year history that it has won 20 or more games in a season, and the Saints have won more than 20 games only four times.
Making the achievement even more remarkable is that the Saints played a lot more games than they do now. The Saints season is much shorter than it used to be, with the regular season ending on July 28.
They begin play in the National Amateur Baseball Federation (NABA) regional tournament on Aug. 1, with the GLUBL playoffs following that and the season officially over Aug. 10-11.
With 15 players coming back from that squad, along with some talented newcomers — including some players who just graduated from high school this year — the Saints came in expecting a repeat performance.
The Saints are on a mission to win the league championship this season after falling agonizingly close last year, and the offense has bailed them out on several occasions in their 8-1 start to the season.
“Any coach would love to have so many guys returning, and I certainly am,” Saints manager Tyrone Collins said. “Making it even better, and conducive to great productivity, most of them were with me two years ago.
“You mix in the six or seven new guys, and things really look good for us. Naturally, expectations are going to be high after such a great season a year ago and so many returners.
“But the guys are keeping their heads about it. They’re not looking ahead, and just focusing on what’s in front of them. They know that you can’t just step onto the diamond and figure the other team is going to surrender without a fight. They know that last year is in the rear view mirror, and they have to prove themselves all over again.”
With their offense clicking almost immediately, the Saints ripped off six straight wins in the GLUBL before seeing it end in the first game of a doubleheader against the Saginaw Sugar Beets last weekend.
The Saints grabbed an early 3-0 lead on Saturday, but they would not score again after the first inning while the Sugar Beets rallied for a 4-3 win with two runs in the seventh, and last inning.
Logan Briggs went 3 for 4, drove in a run and scored three times himself as the Saints bounced back with an 11-3 win in last Saturday’s nightcap. The Saints had 13 hits.
“One thing about this team is we never feel like we’re out of any game,” Collins said. “We lost the opener to Saginaw, but came right back and hit the heck out of the ball in the second game.
“Eventually, though, our luck is going to run out and our offense won’t be able to pull a game out of the fire. We’ve talked a lot with our pitchers about keeping their pitch counts down. Falling behind the count on a hitter is always a dangerous situation.”
Briggs has risen to the top of the hitting statistics for the Saints with a .433 batting average and eight runs batted in with 14 runs scored. Alex Strickland is batting .421 with nine RBI and six runs scored, Lucas Weinert has a .417 average with four RBI and 18 runs scored while Nicholas Brzezinski is hitting at a .394 clip with 15 RBI and nine runs.
Rookie pitcher Kirk Myers, who graduated from Frankfort High School this year, improved to 2-0 in his first start last week. He has an impressive 2.27 earned run average, and has 12 strike outs and nine walks in 12 1/3 innings.
Levi Irish is 1-0 with a 1.65 ERA, with 16 strike outs and just one walk in 12 2/3 innings. Cam Fewless is 2-1 with a 4.20 ERA, seven strike outs and two walks in 8 1/3 innings.
The Saints receive their biggest test of the season yet this weekend when they host the defending league champion Oil City Stags in a four-game series starting at 1 p.m. Saturday.