Royal Oak, a team reeling from injuries and on a six-game losing streak, pulled out a 4-2 victory against the Michigan Monarchs on Saturday. The win improves the Leprechauns’ record to 10-13, keeping them at fourth in the North Division, whereas a loss would have seen them slide to fifth and the Monarchs to fourth.
The big play of the game came in the bottom of the seventh. Late-season addition Spencer Warfield (Valparaiso) hit a two-run home run to left field, breaking a 2-2 tie and giving Royal Oak a lead it would not relinquish. In fact, the home run was never supposed to happen. After the game, starting pitcher AJ Kostic (Central Michigan) informed me that head coach Jonathan Vance had given Warfield the bunt sign. Vance was willing to let it slide though, saying that, “since he hit a bomb, he gets a free pass,” but did acknowledge that as a new member of the team, he might have still been getting a hang of all the signals.
It was a game where Royal Oak did not have many base hits, having only four, but it made them count. Jayden Lopez (UC Riverside) gave the Leprechauns an early lead with an RBI triple in the first. Lopez was then hit in on an RBI groundout by TJ Yakimisky (Univ. of Illinois-Springfield). Warfield’s home run was a two-run shot because Peter Stewart (Lake Land) ripped a single to lead off the inning.
Kostic himself had a great game as well, handing in a quality start with six innings and surrendering two earned runs. He struck out eight batters, giving up only two walks and four hits. Often a big contributor at the plate, it was interesting to see him out there on the mound. “I’m just glad to be out there and do whatever I can to help the team win,” Kostic said, “It feels good to be able to compete on the mound and at the plate.”
Kostic and the bullpen pitchers also had a great defensive performance behind them tonight, as the defense committed no errors tonight. One defensive standout was Murray State’s John Orberson, who made two big plays in the later innings by sprinting about one hundred feet to track down a fly ball in right center once and making a leaping play in deep center to record the second out in the ninth inning.
Tonight was also a rare night where fans were treated to two home runs in the game. Prior to Warfield’s home run, Monarchs’ leadoff man Jake Dresselhouse delivered a solo shot to right field to tie the game at two in the top of the sixth.
Unfortunately for the Monarchs, the main theme for the Leprechauns had been timely pitching throughout the contest. To start the game, Dresselhouse had walked and stole second, putting a runner on second with no outs. The Monarchs did not score. Following the Dresselhouse home run, the Monarchs were in position to take the lead, having two runners in scoring position with one out. Kostic then struck out the next two batters to end the inning and complete his start. In the seventh, Saginaw Valley State’s Christopher Schmees was able to keep the game tied despite having a man on second with one out. Michigan State’s Stephen Ruhle worked around having runners on first and third with one out, utilizing back-to-back massive strikeouts to escape the jam. In the ninth, Wayne State’s David Thurman faced no such troubles, earning the save by squashing the Monarch comeback attempt in three batters.
Royal Oak will look to win the series and its second consecutive game tomorrow on the road against the Monarchs. The Leprechauns will then host three games in a four-game series against the Muskegon Clippers, who are 20-3 and in first place in the North Division. There will be a doubleheader on Tuesday, July 11th, as the teams had a previously scheduled contest postponed. The first game will be at approximately 5 p.m. and seven innings long. Game two will be shortly thereafter and be another seven inning contest. The third game will be at Muskegon the following day before the final game being at home again on Thursday, July 13th.