Manchester Babe Ruth 14s have no room for error
Will it be "Mission Accomplished" or "Mission Impossible" by Saturday for Manchester's Mickey Hanagan All-Stars?
There's no more room for error as Manchester must win five games in five days to capture the 14-year-old Babe Ruth Baseball World Series title in Moses Lake, Wash.
Manchester looks to rebound from an 0-2 pool play start with a win today at 8 p.m. against Northern Washington regional champ Puget Sound, Wash. On Sunday, Puget Sound opened its pool play with a 12-3 loss to Longwood, Fla.
Manchester needs to beat Puget Sound today and Tualatin Hills, Ore., on Wednesday at 2 p.m. to advance to the six-team single-elimination round, which begins Thursday.
The semifinals will be held Friday and the finals are slated for 4 p.m. Saturday.
Hanagan said he will start Drew Merrick on the mound today, but he will have all hands on deck if Merrick struggles or starts to tire in the late innings.
"Drew is capable of taking us deep into the game," said Hanagan. "But I'm here to win a World Series, which means we need to win every game. I won't hesitate to make a pitching change if we need one."
Hanagan will have first day starter Pat Swanson available today for seven innings and Jake Carrier for five frames.
Hanagan is hoping to not to pitch Swanson or Game 2 starter Matt Reynolds until Thursday, when the single elimination format begins.
"The plan now is to win with Merrick (today) and (Garret) Olivar on Wednesday," said Hanagan. "Right now we need to beat Washington and get a win under our belt. A win will build confidence going into Wednesday's game. If we can get to Thursday, the slate is clean because you've got six teams left who all have to win their remaining games."
Manchester's quest for a world championship got a little tougher Sunday. Starting catcher Nate Hall was taken to the hospital following a severe ankle sprain after sliding into a base in the fourth inning against Westchester, Calif.
"Hospital X-rays showed no break or fracture," said Hanagan. "He's wearing a cast and he won't play against Washington. There's a chance he could play later in the week, but right now it's day-to-day."
Jake Poitras finished the game behind the plate and Hanagan said he didn't miss a beat. "He's got a strong arm and threw out a couple of runners," said Hanagan, who plans to play Olivar at shortstop and move Jon Robinson to second base. Robinson played short the first two games and Olivar was at second.
"Robinson has struggled at short and we need someone to make plays at that position," said Hanagan. "Moving Jon to second should settle him down and Garret is capable of playing short."
Manchester collected six hits and stranded 11 runners in its 4-1 loss to Longwood, Fla., Saturday. The Hanagans bashed out 11 hits and stranded seven runners in an 11-7 loss to Westchester, Calif., Sunday.
"We're lacking clutch hits," said Hanagan. "We also gave up three unearned runs to Florida because of errors. California is the best team we've seen here and we battled them toe to toe after giving up seven runs in the first inning. I like the fight in our team and we just need to get our confidence back. To do that, we have to start winning and hopefully we'll win five straight through Saturday."