The first official game of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League was all Leprechauns from the beginning. Tyler Sager (Northwood) got the start, and got through the top of the first unscathed, despite a leadoff single and stolen base by Silas Butler (Cumberland), who proved to be a tough out for the Leprechauns in the exhibition game a few days ago, and continued to be today, reaching twice on walks in his four plate appearances.
The fireworks today, almost exclusively, were in the bottom of the first. The bases were loaded with one out after Monarchs starter Kevin Korte (Saginaw Valley State) hit two batters with pitches and saw his defense commit a fielding error. Murray State Racer John Orberson got the first run of the game by walking, giving the Leprechauns an early 1-0 lead without getting a hit. After Lucas Rick (Western Michigan) lined out to third, Ashland’s Collin Overholt crushed a fly ball into the wind that found itself over the right-center fence for a grand slam. Royal Oak exited the first inning of regular season play with five runs and just one hit.
The Monarchs narrowed the lead to four in the second. Designated hitter Mason McGuire, out of Wayne State, reached first after an infield hit and went to second on a wild pitch by the Sager. The next two batters then each advanced him with ground outs to shortstop, with Wayne State’s Tony Hatzigeorgiou getting an RBI. This run proved to be the only blemish on both the record on both Sager and the Leprechauns.
After the run for the huge inning for Royal Oak and the run for the Monarchs, pitching quickly took over the narrative of the rest of the game. The Monarchs turned to Luke LeMond (Holy Cross) to shut down the hot Leprechauns offense in the second inning, and he was certainly up for the task. LeMond handed in four scoreless innings in relief despite only striking out one batter, using finesse and command to force a lot of weak contact.
Unfortunately for the Monarchs, Tyler Sager was able to match LeMond’s performance. After giving up the run in the second, he pitched four more innings, giving up only one hit in that span. Sager’s impressive performance was in spite of allowing the leadoff man to reach base in five out of his six innings of work, each of them reaching scoring position as well. The struggles with runners in scoring position were a common theme for the Monarchs, not getting a single hit with a runner on second or third the entire game. Despite Overholt’s first inning grand slam, head coach Jonathan Vance dubbed Sager the “coach’s player of the game” following the final out.
The four inning long offensive stalemate was broken in the bottom of the sixth, with the Leprechauns tacking on an insurance run with a one-out double by Jacob Gumieny (Grand Rapids CC) and an RBI single by Josh Getz (Northwood), giving the Leprechauns a 6-1 lead that would hold the rest of the way.
For the back third of the game, Coach Vance gave three relievers an inning each to close out the game. Zach Hopman was given the tall task of following up Tyler Sager’s game. The Michigan State Spartan served up another goose egg on the scoreboard for the Monarchs, striking out Silas Butler to end the seventh, stranding another runner in scoring position for the Monarchs, who did so six times.
The eighth went to Central Michigan’s Trevor Busyn. He also allowed the leadoff man on, but there were quickly two outs after he struck out pinch hitter Jason Arbini (Saginaw Valley State) and allowed Royal Oak catcher and slugger Collin Overholt to throw out the runner attempting to steal second for a double play.
Wayne State’s David Thurman got the ball for the ninth, who also allowed the leadoff man, pinch hitter Connor Cornwell to reach on a single, who was the seventh leadoff man to reach on the day. Another single pushed Cornwell to second, but he moved no further. Thurman racked up a strikeout in the inning and forced two pop outs, including a sensational sliding play by left fielder AJ Kostic (Central Michigan) to end the ballgame.
Royal Oak moves to 1-0 on the GLSCL season with a statement win over the defending North Division Champions, and will look to take the series tomorrow on the road against the Monarchs at Lake Trust Stadium in Howell. They will then return back to the Lucky Corner for game three of the series on Thursday at 7:05 p.m.