By Dave Hart
The Clippers had been scuffing along with a three-game losing streak that was threating to jeopardize their big lead in the league standings.
And they found themselves trailing 2-1 heading into the bottom of the 12th.
But then Matt Mandes hit a sacrifice fly to knock in the tying run, then Ryan Mergener knocked in the winner with a two-out single to secure the dramatic victory.
“I knew I was going to get a fastball,” said Mergener, the Clippers’ second baseman, who had two hits and two RBIs in the game. “I let the ball get to me and got a solid base hit.
“To snap a three-game losing streak was huge, a good way to gain momentum heading into the weekend.”
Muskegon is now 18-5 on the season, good for first-place in the Michigan Summer Collegiate Baseball League. The Clippers have a four-game lead over the River City Rapids and the Michigan Monarchs.
They will meet the Monarchs this weekend on the road for a big three-game series, starting with a single game on Friday and a doubleheader on Saturday. The Clippers will return home on Monday for another big game with the River City Rapids.
“That was fun,” said Clippers Manager Walt Gawkowski. “The kids are really tired, but what I saw in extra innings was 16 really competitive athletes refuse to lose. Maybe it will be a springboard to a great weekend.”
The Clippers opened the scoring in the third inning with a sacrifice fly by Mergener, scoring Adrian Anderson, who led off the inning with a walk.
The Millers tied the game in the fifth inning when Brett Garwood scored on an error by Clipper shortstop Connor Seymour, who also made several brilliant defensive plays in the game.
The game remained tied at 1-1 until the 12th inning, when Millers pinch-runner Gabriel Farr scored on a booted ground ball near second base.
The Clippers responded in dramatic fashion. Connor Glick led off the 12th with a walk and Jackson Overlund reached on an error by the Millers’ third baseman.
The runners advanced to second and third on a wild pitch, then the Clippers’ Matt Williams struck out. Mandes tied the game with a sacrifice fly to right field and Mergener lined the winning single to left field.
Seymour had a hit and an RBI for Muskegon while Glick added a double.
Williams pitched the last 2 1/3 innings to pick up the victory for the Clippers, striking out five batters with no earned runs. He’s usually the ninth inning closer, but Gawkowski let him go longer to keep the Clippers in the contest.
Williams was scheduled to start a game on Saturday, but plans are up in the air, Gawkowski said.
“My view has always been the most important game of the year is the game we’re playing today,” Gawkowski said about leaving Williams in the game. “We wanted to win tonight. We’ll worry about Saturday when we get there.”
Clipper starter Nick Eely pitched eight innings, allowing a run on five hits while striking out five. Jordan Drake pitched an effective 1 2/3 innings of relief.