Royal Oak walked it off for the second straight game at home, marking four consecutive victories for the Leprechauns, winning 8-7 against the Grand Lake Mariners, improving Royal Oak’s record to 8-7 on Tuesday, with TJ Yakimisky (Univ. of Illinois Springfield) delivering a walk-off RBI single to win it. Royal Oak sees itself with a winning record for the first time since winning the season opener, where they had followed that with four consecutive losses afterwards. The win puts Royal Oak one game behind the Sandusky Ice Haulers for third place in the North Division and four games behind the Lima Locos for second place.
The score was 7-5 Grand Lake going into the ninth inning, as AJ Kostic (Central Michigan) was the lone Leprechaun with a base hit before the inning began, notching three RBIs on the day. Things looked especially bleak after Kostic led off the inning by grounding out to the pitcher, Evan Weaver. Collin Overholt (Ashland) injected life into the Lucky Corner immediately after by launching a solo home run to right center field, his third big fly of the year. Royal Oak got a gift as the tying run, Caden Duryea (Northwood) reached first after hitting a swinging bunt right in front of home plate, but catcher Lucas Steele made a fielding error. USC’s Brayden Dowd pinch ran for Duryea. Hillsdale’s Trey Haeger flew out to deep right center field, and the Leprechauns were down to their final out, with Murray State’s John Orberson stepping up to the plate. He came through with a bloop single, advancing Dowd to third. Representing the possible winning run, the Mariners allowed Orberson to take second as well with TJ Yakimisky at the plate.
Yakimisky’s at bat was where things got pretty weird. Down 0-2 in the count, base umpire Bob Lothian called a balk on Weaver, and Dowd trotted home to tie the game. Mariners’ head coach Nick Shaffner came out to argue the call, and managed to change the umpires’ mind, and Dowd and Orberson had to retreat back to third and second as some boos began to rain down. The very next pitch, Weaver threw a breaking ball that bounced a foot in front of the plate, which bounced off Steele towards the first base side, and Dowd scored to tie the game for a second time. Still down 1-2 in the count, it appeared that the game might go to extra innings again, as Yakimisky has had his struggles at the plate, with a batting average of .179 after tonight. Regardless, after an already wild ninth inning, it seemed like destiny might have been on Royal Oak’s side tonight. Yakimisky hit a dribbling ground ball towards shortstop Jackson Taylor, whose throw was late by a half step for an infield single, scoring Orberson and giving the Leprechauns another thrilling home victory.
A lot of credit should also be given to collegiate rivals Brandon Mann (Michigan) and Stephen Ruhle (Michigan State) for keeping the Leprechauns within striking distance later in the game. Mann came into the game in the fifth. He did face some initial struggles, giving up two earned runs in his first inning of work, but followed that up with two shutout innings afterward, including two huge strikeouts in the seventh to leave three Mariners stranded. Ruhle kept Grand Lake at bay in two innings as well, allowing two base runners and ensuring they did not touch home plate, earning the win as well.
The second game of this four game series with Grand Lake will be a road game tomorrow night. The next day will be an off day, with the series returning to Royal Oak for game three on Friday at 7:05p.m., prior to the series finale at Grand Lake on Saturday.