Riffe, Balk Fuel 5-4 Win vs Richmond

June 15, 2023by Jacob Cotsonika

Starting pitching put Royal Oak in a favorable position for the second straight night at the Lucky Corner, with Ben Riffe (Southern Illinois-Carbondale) receiving the start tonight. He had the tall task of matching the performance yesterday by Tyler Sager (Northwood), who threw six innings and didn’t give up a run. Riffe matched that performance with his own six inning, zero run outing that could easily be argued to be even better. Riffe threw only 69 pitches today. That is reflected in the fact that he only faced nineteen batters, one over the minimum he could have possibly seen. He gave up three hits, but got two of them out of the basepaths after catcher Patrick Ilitch (Valparaiso) threw his man out at second and forced a weak ground ball for a double play. Riffe did Richmond no favors, either. He didn’t walk or hit anyone with a pitch.

The Leprechauns’ offense got off to a good start as well. They put up a run in the bottom of the first. Joshua Getz (Northwood) walked to lead off the game, and Collin Overholt (Ashland) doubled to move him to third. Central Michigan’s AJ Kostic grounded out to bring Getz home and make it 1-0 Royal Oak. 

An inning later, it was 3-0 ‘Chauns after a 2 RBI triple by Overholt, which was the only hit of the inning after Jazz starting pitcher Ryan Hoshaw walked and hit a batter to give Royal Oak a favorable position early in the inning. 

Another thing that should be pointed out was the strong defensive performance by the Leprechauns while Riffe was on the mound. Riffe’s stuff did force a lot of ground balls, but a lot of them looked like they were heading towards the holes on either side of the field, but Getz, Overholt, and Alex Cheeseman (Alabama-Birmingham) each made tough plays today, and first baseman TJ Yakimisky (Univ. of Illinois Springfield) scooped a handful of throws off the ground for huge outs. 

Yakimisky also added an RBI in the bottom of the fifth, hitting a sacrifice fly to deep center, allowing AJ Kostic, who walked earlier in the inning, to trot home. 

Things did unravel for Royal Oak in the seventh, though. It looked like Riffe might have been given the ball for one more inning with such a low pitch count, but the Leprechauns turned to Valparaiso’s Christian Hack instead. Cooper Miles got on base to lead off the inning for the Jazz after an error by Overholt, and that was just the start. A double followed which took Miles to second. Hack then struck out the next batter for the first out. Jordan Daphney got the Jazz on the board with an RBI groundout, though it looked like the lead would stay mostly intact at 4-1 with two outs. Hack then walked the next two batters, loading the bases, and then allowed a base-clearing double to Parkland College’s Charlie Marisca, and suddenly the game was tied at four. 

The Jazz threatened to take the lead too in the eighth inning, with Davenport’s Tyler Kapa on the mound for Royal Oak. Kapa faced runners on second and third with only one out, but struck out two batters to keep the game tied.

USC’s Brayden Dowd then started the bottom of the eighth with a single between short and third. Getz hit what looked like a possible double play ball, but used his speed to reach first. AJ Kostic was then able to move Getz to third with a two-out single. Finally, with Lucas Rick (Western Michigan) at the plate, Jazz reliever John Cedarberg balked, plating Getz and giving the Leprechauns a shocking 5-4 lead going into the ninth.

Wayne State’s David Thurman was assigned the save opportunity, and his defense made sure he got it. Marisca grounded out for out number one. Drew Dillon then hit a line drive that looked like it might go for a single, but Getz made a jumping play at shortstop for the second out. For the final out, second baseman Alex Cheeseman laid out for a diving catch and robbery of another hit to end the ballgame and give Royal Oak its second straight win. 

The Leprechauns will be back in action again tomorrow and the next day, with two road games at Richmond’s home park in Indiana. They will return home Monday for a non-league game, before starting a three game series against the Locos on Tuesday.