In their final game before Opening Day, the Leprechauns were coming off two wins against the Southfield Redbirds, outscoring them by a combined 18-3. That trend of dominance continued into the third and final game of the series, being especially prominent in the middle innings.
Initially, the Redbirds started off the game hot. In the first inning, they loaded the bases with just one out through a triple by James Haranczak and back-to-back walks of Eric Anton and Jacob Kuhlman. The Leprechauns’ starting pitcher, Trevor Busyn (Central Michigan), was able to work his way out of the inning without surrendering a run after striking the next batter out and then forcing a weak grounder back to the mound. Royal Oak faced a similar situation offensively in the first, putting men on second and third with two out, but Zach Hopman (Michigan State) struck out looking to strand them.
Southfield scored a run in both the second and third to take an early 2-0 lead, as Emmanuel Clark reached base on an infield hit. He then stole both second and third and trotted home following a Leprechauns error. In the third, the Rebirds’ Ethan Treharne hit in the second run with a two-out infield hit.
Royal Oak got on the board for the first time in the third, AJ Kostic, the Central Michigan Chippewa, launched a ball to deep left field for a one-out triple. Patrick Ilitch (Valparaiso) followed that with a hard ground ball in the gap between second and first base to make it 2-1 Southfield. This ended up being the inning that started a streak that saw the Leprechauns quickly pull away from the Redbirds.
After relief pitcher Ryan Kruse (Northern Kentucky) was able to hold Southfield scoreless despite a leadoff double, the Leprechauns took the lead with a two run fourth inning. Jacob Yarberry (Coker College) led off the inning with a bloop single to left field. Harrison Ryan, the Chesterfield, Michigan native, then walked to put two runners on. Jacob Gumieny (Grand Rapids CC) had an entourage of supporters from an elementary school class taught by his mother, and he gave them something to cheer for with an RBI single to tie the game at two. The other run for the inning came after AJ Kostic was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, giving the Leprechauns a 3-2 lead they would not relinquish.
After another scoreless inning for the Redbirds, it was 5-2 ‘Chauns after five following a sacrifice fly by Yarberry and an RBI double by Gumieny. An inning later, it was 7-2 Royal Oak. Patrick Ilitch hit in AJ Kostic with an RBI single, with a help from a fielding error in left field, a common theme for Southfield, who witnessed their defenders commit five total errors today. Zach Hopman quickly hit Ilitch home with an RBI single of his own.
The Redbirds made it 7-3 in the top of the seventh, taking advantage of Royal Oak handing them two free bases with an error and walk, scoring a run through an RBI single by Jacob Kuhlman. Defensively, Southfield quickly lost whatever momentum they gained with that inning, as the Leprechauns scored twice again, this time without a single base hit in the inning, after being gifted two Redbird errors and another hit by pitch. This inning was the fourth straight inning Royal Oak scored exactly two runs, and the fifth inning in a row where they scored. Much of this offense was also fueled by aggressive base running, with the Leprechauns swiping ten bags today.
Both teams went quietly in the eighth, with the Leprechauns’ Nolan Coil (Calvin College) retiring all three batters he faced. For the ninth, David Thurman (Wayne State) entered the finish off the game. He surrendered two hits and a run to make the score 9-4, but there was no stress to be had with the massive cushion he was given by the Leprechauns offense. Without issue, Thurman closed the book on the game and completed the Leprechauns’ sweep of the Southfield Redbirds.
A new opponent will be had tomorrow at the Lucky Corner, with the Michigan Monarchs coming to town. Tomorrow will be Opening Day for the team and first pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. The game will not count towards the GLSCL standings, but will serve as a great litmus test for the Leprechauns against the defending league champions.