by Calli Townsend
After losing game one of the 10U District tournament on July 10, Marine City bumped down to the loser’s bracket where it began the climb back to the championship. The Mariners went on to beat Marysville, Emmett, Richmond, and Cros-Lex before meeting up with St. Clair for the championship.
The two teams faced off on Thursday, July 15, in Richmond. This was St. Clair’s fourth game of the tournament with zero losses heading in. The tournament is double elimination, however, so although Marine City won 6-5, they will have a rematch tonight at 6:30.
“Here’s the key to our team: Instead of worrying about motivation, we put in the hard work,” Mariners head coach Dan Van de Vyver said. “With some of the kids who are local to the area, I would gather them up and we would do a lot of practicing in the wintertime so they were well-prepared. Their confidence level of courses increases too.”
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Van de Vyver said the winter work paid off as his team moves deeper into the tournament after a long week of games.
Despite outhitting Marine City 9-2, St. Clair wasn’t able to convert on the basepath to earn the win. Van de Vyver said tonight’s strategy for his team was bunting off the talented St. Clair pitcher.
“We actually laid down some bunts. Their pitcher pitched really well, he had a lot of velocity so I just kept telling the kids, ‘Work the count as best they could, wait for your pitch, don’t swing at balls,’” Van de Vyver said. “They did a great job actually of doing that to get that pitcher to his count to where (he) had to come out of the game.”
Prior to that, St. Clair took the early lead, 1-0 to end the second inning. But then a pair of walks and a single in the top of the third put the Mariners on the board, 1-1. On the next play, Myles Wilcox grounded out but still got an RBI, driving home the runner on third.
To end that inning, St. Clair had back-to-back singles that looked to spark some momentum. However, the lineup ended with three consecutive outs next to maintain the Mariners’ lead.
Jacob Van de Vyver was on the mound for the majority of the game, stepping off in the fifth inning after reaching the pitch count. He threw 81 pitches, facing 24 batters and striking out three of them.
“Tonight we burned him out, he pitched the full 75 pitches allowed so he won’t be in tomorrow’s game,” Van de Vyver said. “But throughout the week we sporadically pitched him.”
The Mariners gained a lot of momentum in the top of the fourth inning.
“We bunted our way to bases loaded and then went from there,” Van de Vyver said.
They went on to score four runs to extend their lead to 6-1. Now down by five and suffering three connective outs in their next at bat, things looked bleak for St. Clair.
The Saints didn’t give up though, reminding the Mariners they were still in the fight. They scored four runs on three hits in the bottom of the fifth to make the score 6-5.
Van de Vyver said he had to jolt his players to keep them ready and focused.
“We try to coach every pitch to make sure the kids aren’t down,” Van de Vyver said. “We try to remind them of how much work they’ve done in the past and they should be confident and know they’re well-prepared. The biggest thing is to not lose them.”
And it worked. The Mariners held the Saints scoreless for the rest of the game, surviving another day in the tournament. The winner of tonight’s game will be crowned the District 7 Champion.