by Calli Townsend
The St. Clair lineup carried the Saints to a 10-4 victory over the Birmingham Bulldogs on Sunday in the second game of pool play.
Jaxon Distelrath led the team at the plate, going three for three with two RBI. Michael Frantz also had a nice double to center field in the bottom of the third to score a run, and Bryce Moran came in at the plate with two hits for two RBI.
“When I step in the box, I don’t really have any pressure on me, it’s usually just before the game and that’s it,” Jaxon Distelrath said. “I just wait until I get a pitch that I can hit, but when I get two strikes, then it’s anything close.”
Advertisements - Click the Speaker Icon for Audio
The Saints were off to a slow start in the first inning, trailing 1-0. In the bottom of the second, however, they gained momentum as the Bulldog defense began to struggle. One batter was hit by a pitch and the next four were walked to put St. Clair ahead, 2-1. Then Jaxon Distelrath came to the plate to hit his second single of the day and score two runs.
“In the first inning, he kind of slowed us down, then in the second inning he hit a guy and we had great, great at bats against him, just working counts and we actually drew quite a few walks,” head coach Matt Distelrath said. “That knocked him out of the game and they had to bring another guy in and the floodgates kind of opened up. We hit the ball pretty well from that point on.”
St. Clair scored another pair of runs in the third, but then faced a bit of a defensive slump in the top of the fourth. The Bulldogs loaded the bases on walks and proceeded to score three runs. But thanks to the heroics of Noah Bean, it only narrowed the Saints’ 7-1 lead to 7-4.
“Noah had probably the game-saving play,” Matt Distelrath said. “With the bases loaded, he caught a fly ball up against the fence that was probably going over if he didn’t catch it, so it turned from a grand slam to they were able to tag up and get a run in but we were able to get an out on it.”
Once the Saints got out of the field and back to the plate, they faced two quick outs. It looked like their lineup was fading, but then back-to-back singles by Gabe Cyplic and Bean sparked the momentum the team needed. This loaded the bases, and when Moran took the plate, he added another hit to score one run. Jaxon Distelrath did the same with a hard single to extend the Saints’ lead, 9-4. Their final out of the inning still scored one run, 10-4.
Matt Distelrath credits his entire lineup for contributing to the 10 total team hits on the day.
“Honestly it was from five down to nine in the order that knocked him out of the game by having good at bats,” Matt Distelrath said. “[Moran] came off the bench and had two really big hits for us. He’s got a great swing and he’s had some good hits, but he hadn’t been hitting as well as I knew he had hoped. But honestly, one of strengths is definitely that we are very, very balanced. Guys off our bench would start for other teams.”
The fifth and final full inning went quickly as each team only took four at bats. Then St. Clair held Birmingham scoreless in the sixth to seal the victory.
St. Clair was able to throw several different arms on the mound again, saving some pitchers for later in the tournament. Frantz pitched most of the game, throwing two strikeouts in three innings with 10 batters.
St. Clair will take on Western Little League tonight who is also 2-0 in pool play.
“Both teams are moving on to bracket play tomorrow no matter what the outcome is today,” Matt Distelrath said. “Obviously we’re going out trying to win to set ourselves up as best we can, but we’re also not going to deplete our pitching too much to try to win this game knowing that we’re both moving on.”
The Saints used up two pitchers in Sunday’s game that will be out for tonight, but they will be back for Tuesday as bracket play begins. Tonight’s game against Western begins at 5 p.m. in Grosse Pointe.
“It’s a great feeling,”Jaxon Distelrather said. “And we’re one step closer to our goal of making it to the Little League World Series.”