Yakimisky Walks It Off for Royal Oak, 3-2

July 11, 2023by Jacob Cotsonika

The Leprechauns were dead. They were scoreless in their last fifteen innings. Facing a 22-3 Muskegon Clippers team, absolutely nothing indicated they had much of a shot to come back from their 2-0 deficit Tuesday night. Going into the sixth, this article was being prepared as if the Leprechauns had gotten shut out again.

Alas, they found a way. TJ Yakimisky (Univ. of Illinois-Springfield) delivered a walk-off RBI single to left field to deliver a huge win for Royal Oak, down to its last out in sudden death. If Yakimisky had been put out, the Clippers would have won. The GLSCL has a way to determine a winner after one extra inning is not enough to determine a winner. One team hits with a man on first base with no outs, and the other plays defense. If the team that is hitting scores a run, they win. If they don’t, they lose. Coach Jonathan Vance, who had the right to make that choice as the manager of the home team, elected to hit. A decision that seemed puzzling since the Clippers had the best pitcher in the league, Jack Decker, on the mound. Decker has a 0.73 ERA in 36.2 innings pitched. 

Statistically, the decision makes no sense. In today’s doubleheader, Royal Oak had scored in one out of the previous fifteen innings. Defensively, they had also allowed a run across only three times in fifteen innings as well. Coach Vance’s justification following the game for choosing offense revolved around the fact that teams are much more likely to score with a lead-off man on base, and with their second, third, and fourth hitters up, he felt the odds were in their favor to score. In fairness, the Leprechauns had faced a sudden death situation at home before, in which they also chose offense. That game was against the Sandusky Ice Haulers on June 23rd, where TJ Yakimisky hit a walk-off infield single to win the game.

The sudden death period was a massive roller coaster ride for the Leprechauns. With Collin Overholt (Ashland) at first as the “ghost runner,” Alex Cheeseman (UAB) hit an infield single to start the inning, putting the winning run in scoring position with nobody out. Things became much more bleak after AJ Kostic (Central Michigan) struck out looking and Caden Duryea (Northwood) struck out swinging. All that went away with Yakimisky’s line drive that dropped in shallow left field, scoring Overholt and winning the game. 

Yakimisky was a big reason for Royal Oak getting the game to extra innings in the first place. In the sixth inning, he delivered the first run of the day with an RBI double. As the tying run, he came in on a safety squeeze play that saw Connor Cornwell (Saginaw Valley State) reach first. 

Tyler Sager (Northwood) also had a great start to the game. Throwing well over a hundred pitches, Sager threw 6.2 innings tonight, giving up only two runs to a Clippers team that averages over six a game.

The win improves Royal Oak to 12-14 on the season, perhaps keeping their slim playoff hopes alive. The Clippers lost for only the fourth time all year, a measly number compared to their twenty-two wins, still holding a 3.5 game lead for first place in the North Division and overall in the league. 

Royal Oak will look to clinch at least a series split tomorrow, with the third game against Muskegon on the road. The final game of the series will be another home game for Royal Oak. Following this series, the Leprechauns will begin another crucial series against the Lima Locos, who sit at second place in the North, which might represent the Leprechauns’ last chance to re-enter the playoff picture, as they continue to sit 6.5 games behind Lima for the second spot in the playoffs with eleven games remaining.