By Steve Gunn and Dave Hart
But that game was suddenly cancelled despite dry weather, and the next thing he knew, the Rapids announced they were ceasing operations in the middle of the season.
Forward to Monday night, when Ashcraft took the mound for his new team – the Muskegon Clippers – against the Holland Millers at Marsh Field.
He had a brilliant debut, holding the Millers scoreless over five innings in the Clippers’ convincing 12-2 victory.
Ashcraft, right-hander who pitches for Grand Valley State University, scattered three hits, struck out six and walked only one. He combined with fellow pitchers Austin Batka (another pickup from the defunct River City team) and Matt Williams to limit Holland to four hits in the contest.
The victory kept the Clippers perfect in their bid for a second straight Michigan Summer Collegiate Baseball League championship. They are now 8-0 in league play and 8-1 overall.
“Our team didn’t have enough guys committed, and our coach didn’t want to deal with finding enough guys to play every game,” said Ashcraft, a Forest Hills Central grad who pitched well in one game against the Clippers earlier in the season. “The Clippers coach got in touch with me and asked me to play and I was happy to join.
“It’s a good atmosphere here, playing under the lights with a pretty good crowd. I wasn’t nervous. I just went out there, threw strikes and let the defense work behind me.”
Clippers Manager Walt Gawkowski said the addition of Ashcraft and Batka has rounded out his pitching staff nicely.
“We are going to be very tough to beat when we pitch like that,” Gawkowski said. “Mitch Ashcraft was absolutely outstanding. Tremendous rhythm, he works fast and he throws strikes. That’s the holy grail.
“We threw three absolutely outstanding pitchers at them (Holland) tonight and that is a pretty good baseball team.”
The Muskegon bats were booming, as usual, piling up 15 hits.
Williams led the way with three hits, including two doubles, and four RBIs. Will Harris added two hits, including a two-run homer, while Logan Fleener also had two hits and two RBIs.
Ryan Mergener and Connor Glick contributed two hits apiece, while Montague High School All-Stater Jacob Buchberger, playing his first game for the Clippers, had a two-run triple in his first plate appearance.
In the sixth inning, the Clippers strung together a back-back-to-back single (by Glick), double (by Cameron Bair) and triple (by Buchberger).
The Clippers took control early, scoring two runs in each of the first three innings to grab a 6-0 lead. They added four runs in the seventh and two in the eighth.
Holland scored its only two runs in the seventh inning.