by Calli Townsend
After finishing pool play 3-0 in the State tournament, St. Clair advanced to the first round of championship play, where the Saints took on Portage Lake. They trailed 2-1 by the end of the first inning and just couldn’t find the spark they needed to rally to victory. Portage Lake went on to win 4-1.
“Things started off alright,” head coach Matt Distelrath said. “We got one in the first inning and it seemed like we were going to get rolling like we had all tournament but we just never strung any hits together. That wasn’t who we were all year, so that was a little bit of the disheartening part.”
The Saints had averaged 12 hits per game during pool play, but only managed four in Tuesday’s game against Portage Lake.
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“It’s one of those things where we played so well Monday night, probably one of our best games of the year,” Distelrath said. “And with kids you just don’t know. I don’t know if it was hard to turn around and come play first thing the next morning, or it was overconfidence because everyone said that Western was one of the best teams and for us to do that to them, maybe we overlooked the next team.”
The Portage Lake pitcher had a fantastic day on the mound, making it tough for the Saints to gather any momentum at the plate.
“We didn’t come into it as sharp as we should have, but their pitcher pitched outstanding against us, he had 58 pitches and 52 strikes. He did a great job,” Distelrathe said. “We just never found the holes when we were hitting.”
For the Saints, Jackson Kemp started out on the mound. In the first inning, followed by Joe Schafer who pitched the next three. He threw four strikeouts and gave up five hits. Michael Frantz came in to close, striking out one and holding the opponent scoreless.
At the plate, Jaxon Distelrath led the Saints with two hits and one run. Kemp and Graham Parlardg each added a hit as well.
“I’ve been doing this since 2005, coaching All-Star teams, and there are certain years when you’re just happy to be there and you want to make it as far as you can,” Distelrath said. “But after how we played on Friday night, I think we all started to feel like we had a real, legitimate chance to win this. They’ve put their time in and our goal was to win this tournament for sure and to not get as far as we thought we would have made it a tough pill to swallow.”
Distelrath said 10 of 13 players on this team have been playing together since they were eight years old and they’ll continue to play together in tournaments as they prepare for next year’s Little League season.
“They wanted to put the work in. They really pushed each other to get better every day. We improved so much from 10 to 12, it’s crazy,” he said. “We play together as a travel team and we’ll continue to do that. The chemistry is really good with these boys. They really build each other up, they work hard together, they work well together, so it’s something that we’ll build in the future. They’ll all be St. Clair high school kids.”