By Dave Hart

MUSKEGON – The Muskegon Clippers didn’t accomplish what they hoped to this season.

But Tyler Trovinger, one of the few local players on the Clippers’ roster, is wrapping up a very productive season with his hometown summer baseball team.

Muskegon Clippers shortstop Tyler Trovinger. Photo/Leo Valdez

Trovinger and his teammates entered 2017 hoping to make the playoffs in their first year as members of the challenging Great Lakes Collegiate Summer Baseball League.

As it turns out, that’s not going to happen. After playing better a few weeks ago, the Clippers have dipped to 16-23 on the season. They are in fourth place in the league’s Northern Division, and only the top two teams make the playoffs.

The Clippers will finish the season with games on Saturday and Sunday night at Marsh Field against the rival Grand River Loggers.

But they still have something to play for.

The Loggers, who split their home games between Grand Haven High School and Marsh Field, are currently in third place in the Northern Division, only a half-game behind the St. Clair Green Giants in the race for the final playoff spot.

That means the Clippers have a chance to ruin the Loggers’ postseason hopes, which provides plenty of motivation for the final weekend.

Tyler Trovinger avoids the tag and dives into home plate during a game in June. Photo/Leo Valdez

“It would be nice to take them out of the playoffs,” Trovinger said. “It would be nice to leave them in the same boat we’re in. There is always a little tension when we play them. We use the same home field, we’re close to each other, so it feels like we’re butting heads every time we play.

“We’ll be level-headed about it, but we want to take them out, so they don’t have the bragging rights.”

For Trovinger, the final weekend will also be a chance to cap a very solid overall baseball season.

The Mona Shores graduate had a strong freshman year with the Division 1 Oakland University baseball team in the spring, starting in 48 of the team’s 50 games.

He hit .215 with two home runs, 17 RBIs, six doubles, 24 runs and three stolen bases. Those may not be All-American stats, but they were good enough to earn Trovinger as spot on the Horizon League All-Freshman team.

Trovinger heads for home plate with coach Walt Gawkowski congratulating Trovinger after belting a 2-run homer against St. Clair. Photo/Jason Goorman

“I was scared going into a new place,” said Trovinger, who graduated from Mona Shores in 2015. “I felt like a new fish in a big pond, and that I was no longer one of the best of my team. I was on a squad that had best players from all different areas.

“I knew I had to work hard for playing time, so I busted my butt off in offseason.”

When Oakland’s season ended, Trovinger headed home to play shortstop for the Clippers. The chance to play near home in the summer is a rare opportunity for collegiate players. Most of Trovinger’s teammates are from distant cities and states.

“They (Clippers) reached out to me in the late fall, and I told them I wanted to return home for the summer and compete in the Great Lakes League.

“I was humbled by the opportunity, and I felt I had a lot to growing to do this summer, in terms of developing my skills.”

Trovinger has done well in his second season with the Clippers. He’s currently hitting .250 with four home runs, 15 RBIs, six doubles, and has scored 21 runs.

Trovinger makes the play at shortstop for Muskegon. Photo/Jason Goorman

He is tied for second on the team in homers and is second in walks with 24.

“To an extent,” Trovinger said, when asked if he’s happy with his performance with the Clippers. “I’m never completely satisfied – that’s just the mindset of a baseball player.

“I think I’ve improved my hitting with a two-strike count, and I’m hitting more to all fields instead of always pulling the ball to left. I think I’m more disciplined at the plate.”

Clippers Manager Walt Gawkowski is very satisfied with Trovinger’s development.

“Tyler has grown as a baseball player,” he said. “His experience at Oakland University has helped prepare him for the summer season, and he has made great gains both defensively and offensively.

“Tyler has a very high ceiling. His overall skills will continue to develop as he continues to compile at-bats and innings on the field.”