By Greg Gielczyk
MANISTEE — Coming home with just two wins in its first seven games, all on the road, the Manistee Saints Baseball Club badly wanted to sweep its three-game weekend series against the South Bend Royals.
That’s exactly what the Saints accomplished, rallying from behind to boost their record to 5-5 on the season as they take aim at a third straight N.A.B.F. regional title.
Saturday’s games went to the Saints, 10-5, in the opener after trailing by two late and 5-3 before rallying for a wild 11-9 win on Sunday.
“We went into the weekend with the goal of sweeping, and ending the weekend 5-5,” said Saints manager Roddy MacNeil. “We thought it would be big for us setting up the next couple weekends.
“And we accomplished it, so we feel good about that,” MacNeil said. “Super pumped about our guys. Super pumped about the attitude and mentality. Excited to see what we can do each weekend.”
It started on Saturday when the Saints had to climb back from a 5-3 deficit in the fifth inning. Kyle Weiler had the big blow with a three-run homer that lifted the Saints into a 6-5 lead.
Lucas Weinert from Scottville smoked a solo home run and Tommy Reid drove in two more with a single in the sixth inning to give the Saints a 9-5 edge.
But the Royals scored a single run in the top of the seventh inning which brought the Saints to the plate in the bottom half with the score tied, 9-9.
That set the stage for Saints veteran Lucas Richardson, who responded with a clutch two-out base hit that pushed across the winning run in the bottom of the seventh.
Alex Schmitt got the start on the mound for the Saints and earned the win, allowing two runs on three hits and striking out two in three innings. Brad Van Ess pitched two innings of relief.
Stephen Weinert’s single in the bottom of the fifth after Lucas Weinert had come home on an error in a 5-3 win.
Roddy MacNeil gave up one run on one hit and recorded four strikeouts over the first three innings. Brendan Pierce picked up the win in relief, and Kyle Gorski also threw two innings.
The Saints took a 5-1 lead after the second inning in Sunday’s single game, but the Royals fought back to climb into a 7-5 lead with a four-run fourth inning and still led, 8-7, after six.
But the Saints mounted a four-run rally in the seventh to snare an 11-9 win.
“This (South Bend) is a great team, they battled and didn’t give stuff away very easily,” MacNeil said. “Even today being (down) 5-1, they never gave up. They came back and made us earn it.
“First thing you know, they’re winning. We just had to keep answering and find ways to do the same. Give them a ton of credit for what they were doing.
“Our guys … I can’t give them enough credit. The mentality, the way we stayed in it and never gave up. Those kinds of things are really awesome to see.”
Lucas Weinert led the Saints at the plate with a perfect 4-for-4 effort with four runs batted in. Dom Palamara contributed a 3-for-3 performance and two RBI, while Aaron Bess added two hits and an RBI.
Dylan Bates came out of the bullpen and was credited with the win, working three innings and surrendering four runs on six hits while striking out four. Ben Van Ess earned the save.
Mason County Eastern graduate Wyatt Crawford got the start on the mound and allowed two runs on three hits with two strikeouts and one walk in three innings.
The Saints are home again next Sunday for a doubleheader with the Fultan Sultans beginning at 1 p.m., after hosting their annual Youth Baseball Clinic on Saturday.