In a game the Leprechauns needed to win to keep themselves in a realistic position for a playoff spot, Royal Oak’s offense came alive in a massive 10-6 victory over the Lima Locos on Thursday. The win improves Royal Oak to a 5-7 record, pushing it within three and a half games of the second playoff spot in the North Division. The Leprechauns’ big knockout punch came in the bottom of the sixth inning, when Central Michigan Chippewa AJ Kostic crushed a ball over the fence in left center for a three-run home run. That home run came with two outs, shortly after John Orberson (Murray State) hit an RBI double, one of his three hits tonight.
Caden Duryea (Northwood) contributed heavily for the Leprechauns as well. In all five times Duryea came up to the plate, he got on base, collecting an RBI double, two singles, walked, and was hit by a pitch, scoring twice as well.
In addition to their huge inning in the bottom of the sixth, the Leprechauns had a big inning the inning beforehand too, scoring three runs from an RBI groundout by Michael Lareau (Wabash Valley) and a two RBI single by Jayden Lopez (UC Riverside).
The offense was immediate for Royal Oak, its first two runs coming in the first two innings with two outs on Duryea’s RBI double in the first and Brayden Dowd’s (USC) RBI single in the bottom of the second.
Lima tied the games with runs in the fourth and the fifth, as Anthony Zarlingo hit an RBI double to make it 2-1 and Jack Porter hit in the tying run on an RBI groundout.
Unfortunately for Lima, the tied ballgame didn’t last for long, with the Leprechauns having their two big innings back-to-back, busting the game wide open, the scoreboard reading 9-2, Royal Oak.
Despite the large deficit, Lima did not go down without a fight, responding to Royal Oak’s four-run sixth inning with a four-run inning of its own in the top of the seventh, fueled by three walks and two singles, making the game competitive again at 9-6 ‘Chauns.
Marian’s Joseph Nelan earned the win tonight in relief, finishing off the Loco’s long seventh inning and just about shutting the door on a comeback by throwing a scoreless eighth inning.
The Leprechauns added one more insurance run in the bottom of the eighth after Duryea, who had just gotten on base for the fifth time, and Coach Vance teamed up for a neat little play where Duryea intentionally got himself into a rundown between first and second with two outs, which allowed Peter Stewart (Lake Land), who was at third base, to run home before Duryea got tagged out for the third out of the inning, which meant the run scored. Christian Hack (Valparaiso) finished off Lima in four batters in the top of the ninth, and the fans got to go home happy on Youth Night.
A new, very important series begins for Royal Oak tomorrow, with a three-game set against Sandusky Ice Haulers, who were recently riding an eight-game winning streak before running into the 10-1, first place Muskegon Clippers. The first game of the series will be tomorrow at the Lucky Corner at 7:05 p.m., and then the next two will be road games for the Leprechauns.