PALMETTO -- There were times Saturday when things once again weren't going well for Manatee National.
After losing its first game of the District 26 Little League All-Star Tournament to Buffalo Creek on Thursday, Manatee dug itself a three-run hole against Braden River in an elimination game at Blackstone Park.
After fighting back to take a sizable lead, Manatee National nearly let a six-run lead slip away in the sixth and final inning before holding off Braden River for a 12-10 win to stay alive in the 9/10 Division.
"After a game like Thursday where nothing went our way," Manatee manager Trey Garcia told his team after the win, "you came out here and got the job done."
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Despite allowing five runs in the first two innings, Manatee National stayed afloat thanks to a solid start by pitcher John Collins. During the next three innings, Braden River scored only once.
And even as Braden River mounted a furious sixth-inning comeback, Manatee did enough to survive. Braden River pushed four runs across in the inning before relief pitcher Miles Jordan struck out two batters -- one looking and one swinging -- for the final two outs of Manatee National's win.
"I try to preach to the guys the game's never over until the last inning, last out," Garcia said. "We just tried to stay positive."
Manatee advances to face Lakewood Ranch, which beat host Palmetto 10-4 on Saturday, for another elimination game at 7 p.m. Monday.
Both Manatee National and Ranch lost their first games of the double-elimination tournament, to Buffalo Creek and Manatee American, respectively, and still need to win four more games consecutively to win District 26.
"Our bats finally woke up," Lakewood Ranch manager Jason Muller said. "We started scoring some runs."
The final two teams are set for the Intermediate Division All-Star Tournament after Manatee West cruised to a 13-4 win against Braden River in a Saturday elimination game at Blackstone, setting up a rematch with Palmetto at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
For the second time in the tournament, Manatee leaned on its pitching to triumph. In its first game against Braden River on Wednesday, Manatee West got a five-inning shutout from starting pitcher Bailey Zoller in a mercy-rule win. Three days later, starter Blake Bayless tossed four scoreless frames before reliever Devin Couldaron limited Braden River to four runs in the final three innings to push Manatee into the final against Palmetto.
"We have a tough opponent coming up on Tuesday," Manatee West manager Andy O'Dell said.
Manatee will have to beat Palmetto twice to win in the double-elimination tournament after Palmetto beat Manatee West on Thursday. If Manatee wins Tuesday, the championship game will be Wednesday.
The power returned for Manatee West, too. After clobbering five home runs and scoring 16 runs in its first game against Braden River, Manatee got home runs from both Mac May and Nate Hyman on Saturday to help propel the offense.
"It was a good game, fun competition," O'Dell said. "The kind of competition that Little League is all about."