By Dave Hart

CALEDONIA – The Muskegon Clippers are cruising toward a league championship with a 17-5 record.LSJ Logo incert

But they still have at least one big game remaining – next Monday against the River City Rapids at Marsh Field in Muskegon.Clippers logo shipswheel

That game won’t make much of a difference in the standings, since the Rapids are at least four games behind the Clippers with about 10 games remaining.

But pride will be on the line, because the Clippers have dominated every other team in the league, but continue to struggle with the Rapids. They lost a 5-2 decision to River City at Davenport College on Tuesday, dropping their record to 3-4 against the Rapids this season.

Muskegon will host Holland on Thursday, then will play a three-game road series this weekend against the Michigan Monarchs, before facing River City on Monday.

That will be the final meeting between the two teams this season, and the last chance for the Clippers to get even.

“I wish I could explain it – they just seem to have our number,” said Clippers Manager Walt Gawkowski, whose team now has a season-long three-game losing streak. “They have outstanding pitching and a lot of very good players.

“Would it be nice to beat them? Yes. Last year it was kind of the same thing. I think they won four of six games against us. Even if we were 20 games back in the standings, our guys are competitive athletes and they’re going to give their best effort.”

Gawkowski said his team’s current slump can be partially attributed to the time of year. The players have been competing in college baseball, and then for the Clippers, since early in the year, and tend to get tired as the summer wears on, he said.

“(Clippers catcher) Connor Glick mentioned to me the other day that he has played at least 100 games this year, since his Grand Valley team went on its spring trip,” Gawkowski said. “A lot of these guys are really tired. These are the dog days. You could just see that the energy level wasn’t very good tonight.”

River City took control of the game early on Tuesday, scoring three runs on the first inning on a two-run double by Brandon Cable and an RBI single by Kurtis Baker. The Rapids added two more runs in the seventh inning.

Muskegon managed one run in the fourth and another in the eighth.

Ryan Mergener had two hits, one RBI and a stolen base for the Clippers. Matt Mandes added two hits and Kyle Wise had one RBI.

Pitcher Jerry Ferris pitched seven innings and scattered four hits to collect the win for River City. Tim Tarter started and took the loss for Muskegon.