Following a five game winning streak that put the Leprechauns at 9-7 and renewed hope in the playoff race, Royal Oak has now dropped four straight games, its latest being a 9-6 defeat at the hands of the Jet Box on Wednesday. The latest loss puts the Leprechauns at 9-11 on the season, putting them six games behind the Lima Locos for the second playoff spot in the North Division, a very deep hole with only eighteen games left to play.
Royal Oak’s offense had a solid game, with Northwood’s Josh Getz having a huge game. Getz went 4-for-4 with four RBIs and an additional walk. He was involved even before the first pitch, receiving the ceremonial first pitch from his Navy veteran father, as it was Military Appreciation Night at the Lucky Corner. Despite his very impressive performance, he acknowledged that winning is always the ultimate goal, saying after the game, “I’d rather go 0-for-4, 0-for-5 and walk away with a W than do what I did today and lose,” and simply saying afterwards that “we just want to win.”
Defensively, the last two games have been a big struggle for the Royal Oak pitching staff. The Leprechauns let up eleven runs yesterday and nine today. The first of six pitchers for Royal Oak tonight was Ben Riffe (Southern Illinois Univ. Carbondale), whose start started promising after a 1-2-3 first inning. Riffe struggled massively with his control in the second though, often missing high. He walked four batters and a single to put two runs across before he was taken out, a third run came across with Stephen Ruhle (Michigan State) in the game, giving Riffe three earned runs in just 1.1 innings pitched. That 3-0 deficit was one that Royal Oak never came back from, as Jet Box held the lead the rest of the game, giving Riffe the loss on the day. What did not help was that every time the Leprechauns scored a run, the Jet Box would score as well in the top half of the next inning. Free passes plagued Royal Oak all game too, as eight walks and one hit by pitch were gifted to the Jet Box.
Streakiness has been a common theme throughout the season for the Leprechauns, who have now had two separate four game losing streaks and a five game winning streak, and are now looking to get another streak going on the other side of the win column. Josh Getz said that Royal Oak will do that through finding “some barrels and let the pitchers do what they’re gonna do.”
There were some key opportunities the Leprechauns were unable to take advantage of as well. Royal Oak had an early chance to take the lead in the bottom of the fifth after Getz’ first single of the game and two errors by Jet Box second baseman Bruce Jellison loading the bases with two outs. TJ Yakimisky (Illinois-Springfield) flew out to right to keep the game scoreless. Down two in the bottom of the eighth, the bases were loaded again. Spencer Warfield, a new addition from Valparaiso, was hit by a pitch to put him on first with one out. Brandon Biggerstaff, in relief for the Jet Box, picked off Warfield to make the bases empty with two outs. Biggerstaff hit Wabash Valley’s Michael Lareau with another pitch and then walked the next two batters. If Wayfield wasn’t picked off, it would have been a much more favorable position for the Leprechauns, as it would be a one-run deficit with one out instead of a two-run deficit with two outs. AJ Kostic (Central Michigan) then grounded out to third to end the inning.
Royal Oak will look to avoid the series sweep tomorrow on Hawaii Night at 7:05 p.m. at the Lucky Corner, right before starting a three-game series with the Michigan Monarchs. The middle game of that series will be at home, on Saturday, with road games the day before and after.