Monday, July 19th, 2021
Mariners hold off Michigan
By Tom Haines
CELINA - After Grand Lake reliever Gabriel Torres stranded the bases loaded in the eighth, it took just four batters in the ninth for Michigan to load them up again.
With the Mariners holding a four-run lead, coach Tony Perez handed the ball to Taj Porter, who allowed two of the inherited runners to score but struck out Michael Zinter for the third out as the Mariners got a 7-5 win over the Monarchs on Sunday in the final game of the summer at Montgomery Field.
"Taj, he's definitely a veteran-type player," Perez said. "He's been at two different regionals throughout his career, played against Miami, Mississippi State - you name it, he's played against them. I thought that he could handle it and he did."
Starter Kade Benavidez staked the Mariners to a 6-2 lead after seven innings, but as soon as he left, the lead started to erode. Torres gave up a homer down the left field line to Nick Dardas to make it 6-3, then walked Hayden Jatczak and hit Cade Sullivan in the head with a pitch to put runners on first and second with one out. After a groundout to third, Torres walked Zinter to bring up shortstop Cory Taylor, who popped up behind second base to end the threat.
The first two batters singled in the ninth, and although Torres induced a popup in foul territory, Dardas singled on a ground ball in the hole to load the bases and bring Perez out of the dugout.
"I could see that he was frustrated, because some of those pitches could've been strikes," Perez said. "So I wanted to get the emotion out of there."
The two teams traded runs in the second inning before Grand Lake pulled ahead in the fourth. Ethan Whitley and Brandon Parrott led off with back-to-back doubles to give the Mariners a 2-1 lead, Parrott moved to third on a single, and Noah Thigpen hit a high pop fly down the left field line. Three Monarchs converged with Dardas lining up underneath, but the ball fell in two feet to his right and Thigpen came in to score.
Thigpen started things up again in the sixth after getting hit with a pitch, and with two outs, Sam Seeker drove a pitch deep into the corner in right. Thigpen scored easily as Seeker strolled into third with a stand-up triple. A moment later, Michigan starter Kevin Korte bounced a pitch off the turf that rolled a few feet to the left of home plate and Seeker dashed home, sliding just under Korte's tag to stretch the lead to four.
After the Monarchs got a run back in the top of the seventh off Benavidez, the Mariners added on. Porter walked and stole second, and the Mariners got back to back singles up the middle to bring him home. When the Monarchs got a homer off Torres in the eighth, Preston Jones answered with a shot to deep center to bring the lead back to four.
"I think they were just having fun," Perez said. "They know it's winding down."
Benavidez went seven innings to help out a thin Grand Lake bullpen, allowing a pair of runs on five hits and striking out three. After the Monarchs got back-to-back hits with one out in the seventh, Benavidez got nine-hitter Michael Misenheimer to hit a soft line drive to Thigpen at second, who tried to double off Ryan Missal at first. The throw was late and the runner at third raced home ahead of another late throw, but Missal tried to advance to second and was cut down by Brandon Green to end the inning.
On Saturday, Sandusky put up seven runs in the first two innings and finished with 14 hits to send the Mariners to a 12-4 home loss. Brayden Morrow and Joe Jimenez homered for Grand Lake in the losing effort.
The weekend split moves the Mariners to 16-23 on the season with three games left. Jimenez will represent Grand Lake in the all-star game on July 20 before the Mariners close out their season on the road.
"We had many fans here today, great fan support, especially all the kiddos," Perez said. "So it was fun, and you definitely want to walk away with the win at home in your last shot at it."