Bringing it back home

The Alpena baseball team hosted the annual Mackenzie Memorial Invitational on Saturday and was able to sweep its way past Sault Ste. Marie 11-1 in five innings in the first game Grosse Pointe North 8-4 to win its first Invitational championship since 2008.

“It was great for us to win as this tournament is meaningful for us, as it’s dedicated to Lori MacKenzie who did so much for Alpena baseball throughout the years. We got a great young team, we had great weather and everything clicked today,” Alpena coach Phil Schultz said.

North came in second, Algonac came in third and Sault was fourth.

The championship game featured the skillful pitching of Mitch Skiba, who gave up eight hits and four runs.

North struck first in the bottom of the first, getting two runs in the first inning. Mike Messina and David Kracht hit a double and a single, respectively and Kracht knocked in Messina for the second run of the inning.

Alpena wasn’t struggling to hit in the top of the first, but it did load the bases with Tyler Pintar, hitting a single and Nick Skiba and Tim Atkinson walking. Grosse Pointe pitcher Andrew Remus was able to strike out the next two batters while Nick Skiba got thrown out on a fielder’s choice at second for the third out, stranding all three runners.

The top of the second went much better for Alpena as Brady Marwede, Evan Hamp, Dylan Hoes, Pintar and Nick Skiba all scored to give Alpena at 5-2 lead.

However, the Wildcats once again left the bases loaded and received a stern lecture from Schultz.

“It took a bit of the wind out of our sails (to leave men stranded) but we didn’t let it get us down. We got those five runs in the second and that gave us the push we needed,” Schultz said.

Pintar led Alpena offensively with three hits and scored twice. Nick Skiba scored twice.

North struggled with pitching as it rotated three different pitchers. This shifting helped keep Alpena scoreless for three innings.

Offensively, North was unable to get any momentum going offensively against Mitch Skiba. He struck out three batters and gave up only four walks in the game.

The top of the fifth saw Hoes, Pintar and Nick Skiba all score again as Alpena picked up three hits and three runs to take an 8-2 lead.

Mitch Skiba struggled a bit in the seventh, having already faced 26 batters. He gave up two hits, a walk and two runs in the seventh before being replaced by Cody Tucker who struck out three batters to win the game.

The Wildcats got to the championship game by mercying Sault 11-1.

Chris Modrzynski pitched four and a half innings, giving up two hits, one run and striking out five of 18 batters. Tucker relieved him for the last five batters of the game, giving up one walk, one hit and striking out one.

Alpena faced no more than five batters per inning and faced only three batters twice. Sault struck first in the second off some errors by Alpena, but Alpena answered back with three runs in the third and six runs in the fourth. Pintar and Nick Skiba both scored twice as did Zach Nash, Evan Hamp and Hoes.

Giulio Fantasia knocked in four runs while Atkinson knocked in two and Brady Marwede also had an RBI.

“It’s a big confidence booster (to win the tournament) and it shows that we can compete with anybody in the region. We hope to build off this win and go on to bigger and better things come playoff time,” Schultz said.

Alpena is now 10-2 overall and 5-1 in the Big North.

The All-Tournament Team was chosen by the coaches and consisted of 16 players. Six Alpena players made the list including Modrzynski, Hoes, Nick Skiba, Atkinson, Fantasia and Mitch Skiba.