By Dave Hart and Steve Gunn
But that certainly doesn’t mean he can’t hit.
Mandes proved that again on Monday, collecting three hits in four at-bats, including a ninth inning single that snuck through the right side of the infield and knocked in the winning run in the Clippers’ 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Holland Millers at Hope College.
“I’m the second leadoff hitter, setting things up for the big bats,” joked Mandes, the Clippers’ second baseman, who turned some heads this spring by hitting over .300 as a freshman at Slippery Rock. “Pitchers see a smaller player like me, and they give me fastballs that I like to jump on.
“I wasn’t nervous at all (in the ninth inning). That was the second time I faced that guy. He struck me out the first time, but I was just looking for a pitch to hit and he left it over the middle of the plate.
“It wasn’t the hardest single, but tomorrow it will be a line drive.”
Muskegon improved to 3-0 on the season and remained in first place in the Michigan Summer Collegiate Baseball League, one game ahead of the Michigan Monarchs.
The Clippers will return to action Wednesday night with a game against the River City Rapids at Davenport College. They will return home to Marsh Field Friday night to face the Monarchs at 7 p.m.
Mandes wasn’t the only hero for the Clippers on Monday.
Centerfielder Matt Williams hit a bases-loaded, two-run double in the sixth inning to tie the game at 2-2. Then he moved to the mound in the ninth inning, after the Clippers had taken their final lead, and slammed the door on the Millers by striking out the side while surrendering only a harmless single.
“I was just trying to go up there with a good approach, get a pitch I could drive, get some good wood on it and get some runs across for us,” said Williams, whose big hit was a long fly ball to straightaway center that got over the head of the outfielder.
Mandes and Williams’ clutch hits came in handy for the Clippers, who were shut out for the first five innings of the game by Holland starting pitcher Nick Janssen.
They trailed 2-0 before scoring three runs in the sixth and one in the ninth to steal the win.
Relief pitcher Jacob Gividen got the win for Muskegon, surrendering one run and three hits in the seventh and eighth innings.
Clippers starter Nick Eely gutted it out for six innings, surrendering only two runs on four hits, four walks, three strikeouts and three hit batters.
“We didn’t come out tonight with a great deal of energy, we just kind of hung around,” said Clippers Manager Walt Gawkowski. “I think Nick Eely battled for us. I thought as the game progressed we had some excellent at bats late in the game which proved to be the difference. I was proud of how we played.”
The Millers opened the scoring in the first inning on a sacrifice fly to right field by Wes Custer, scoring Gabriel Farr.
Holland’s Matt Donker hit an RBI single in the fourth inning, putting Holland up 2-0.
Muskegon loaded the bases in the sixth inning on two singles and a walk with nobody out. That’s when Williams hit his two-run double off relief pitcher Zach Sacoman, scoring Mandes and Connor Seymour.
Jason Ribecky followed with a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Ryan Mergener and giving the Clippers a 3-2 lead.
Holland tied the game at 3-3 in the seventh inning on a sacrifice fly to right field by Matt Kurelja, scoring pinch-runner Joe Tidaback.
Muskegon’s Kyle Wise singled in the ninth, advanced to second on a single by Cameron Bair, then scored on Mandes’ big hit.
Seymour and Bair each had two singles in the game.