With the threat of being eliminated from playoff contention nearing, the Leprechauns were unable to do much offensively, dropping the first game of Thursday’s doubleheader against the Muskegon Clippers, 6-1. The loss drops Royal Oak to 12-15 on the year. Any combination of five Royal Oak losses and wins by the second-place Lima Locos will officially send the Leprechauns out of the playoff picture.
Royal Oak continued their struggles offensively, the lone run of the game coming in the bottom of the seventh with the game essentially decided already. Trey Haeger (Hillsdale) received the lone RBI for the Leprechauns, hitting a RBI groundout as a pinch hitter, scoring Patrick Stewart (Lake Land). Excluding the sudden death inning in the second game on Tuesday where the Leprechauns were automatically granted a base runner, Royal Oak has gotten a run across in only two of the twenty-two full innings in this series.
The huge difference in the game was simply that the Clippers had timely hitting and Royal Oak did not. For Muskegon, they jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second inning after Stoney Smith hit a three-RBI double with the bases loaded and two outs in the inning. The Clippers also started the inning with no men on and two outs, keeping the inning alive with three hits and a walk. Smith got a fourth RBI two innings later on a fielder’s choice. In the fifth, Muskegon used two sacrifices to get another run across, with Brandon Scheurer getting an RBI on a fly ball to center. It makes it easy to see why the Clippers are 23-4. Making productive outs is an underrated part of baseball, and they put that on full display.
In contrast, the Leprechauns left seven runners in scoring position on base. Royal Oak did not have a hit with a man on second or third, going 0-for-8. In the third, John Orberson (Murray State) stood on second with one out, and did not advance. In the fourth, the Leprechauns had the bases loaded with one out. Peter Stewart grounded into a back-breaking double play to end the inning. The next inning, Royal Oak failed to get a run across with men on second and third with one out.
Royal Oak will look for some better luck on the offensive side of the ball, with the second game of the doubleheader being set to start soon. A win will earn the Leprechauns an impressive series split against the GLSCL’s top team. A loss will mean a series loss and two losses in one day, and further movement away from any chance at the postseason.