A famous quote within baseball is that hitters should “hit ‘em where they ain’t.” That quote is attributed to Willie Keeler, a man that last played in the MLB 113 years ago. The Keeler spirit was alive at the Lucky Corner tonight, but mostly for one team. The high-powered Muskegon Clippers offense exploded for eleven runs on fourteen hits against the Royal Oak Leprechauns on Thursday night, taking the game 11-6. Muskegon wins the series by winning three of the four games, including a sweep in tonight’s doubleheader. Royal Oak slips to 12-16 on the season, while Muskegon improves its league-best record to 24-4.
Muskegon got the bulk of their runs in the third and fourth innings, scoring four and five runs in each inning, respectively. This was in response to the Leprechauns grabbing a 3-0 lead in the first inning, after an RBI single by John Orberson (Murray State) and two-RBI single by newcomer Jaekob Sallee (Hillsdale). In the top of the third, the Clippers used three singles, a double, and one walk to grab a 4-3 lead.
Following that, they had eleven batters come up in the fourth. Things snowballed quickly for Royal Oak, as they allowed a pop-up that was roughly ten feet in front of home plate drop to lead off the inning. At least three Leprechauns had a chance to make the play, but no one made any real effort for it, with Collin Overholt (Ashland) officially receiving the error. Danny Passinault, almost mockingly, then hit a bloop single that landed right in between three Royal Oak defenders for a single. The next two also singled. To make matters worse, Jabin Bates hit a line drive to shallow center, with Brayden Dowd (USC) making a diving attempt for the ball. A collective groan filled the ballpark as it went underneath his glove, giving Bates a triple, the fifth consecutive Clipper to reach base to start the inning. Three walks after that allowed the inning to continue even longer before Joseph Nelan (Marian) mercifully ended the inning with two strikeouts.
Another big contributor to the dominant offensive performance by Muskegon was its ability to steal bases with ease. The Clippers swiped eight bases in nine attempts. There was one play that they would use with runners on first and third that they successfully executed multiple times. They’d simply have the runner on first attempt to steal second, and once the catcher threw down to second, the man on third would go home. This scenario played out three times; once in the first game of the doubleheader, twice in the second game, with the Leprechauns biting each time.
The Leprechauns’ offense had an improved game compared to the prior one, but simply did not have the ability to keep up with Muskegon. They were unable to get a single extra base hit. Royal Oak was able to work the counts better, drawing nine walks.
The Leprechauns begin a series with the Lima Locos tomorrow. If the Leprechauns want to keep any hope alive at the playoffs, a three-game sweep will be required. If they do not take at least two out of three games from the 20-8 Locos, they will be mathematically eliminated. Two of the games will be road games, with the middle game having a 7:05 p.m. first pitch at the Lucky Corner on Saturday night.