By Dave Hart
MUSKEGON- With a flurry of home games coming up, the Muskegon Clippers have their best chance to move into a possible playoff spot.
After closing out their road trip on Thursday with a win over the Michigan Monarchs, Muskegon entered the weekend just two games behind the Jet Box Baseball Club in the race for the last playoff spot.
Then the Clippers managed to inch a little closer, defeating Jet Box 5-3 at Marsh Field on Friday night.
Muskegon is now 12-10 on the season, good for fourth place in the Great Lakes League’s Northern Division. The Clippers are just one game behind Jet Box and Royal Oak, which are tied for the last playoff spot.
The Clippers will try to get even closer on Saturday night when they host the Royal Oak Leprechauns. First pitch is at 7:05 p-.m.
“We are at the halfway point (of the season), and we treaded water during the first half,” said Clippers Manager Walt Gawkowski. “We been swinging it much better, and we know that we are in the hunt. I think the July schedule will also be more favorable.”
Jet Box opened the scoring in the first inning on an RBI sacrifice fly by Kade Preston.
The Clippers responded without putting the ball in play in the bottom of the first, with the first five batters drawing walks, resulting in two runs. Noah Marcoux and Miko Rodriguez both had RBI walks for Muskegon.
Muskegon extended its advantage in the second inning, scoring on a two-run home run by Chase Bessard to take a 4-1 lead.
Bessard’s home run was special. In the last game against Jet Box, his three-run homer was taken away after it was determined that the Clippers had won by mercy rule before he hit his homer. Therefore it was not an official at-bat, and not an official homer.
“It felt good for sure,” Bessard said. “I didn’t think it was gone. I got a little under it and the wind took it the rest of the way. We are playing really hot baseball right now, even though it’s not always showing on the scoreboard.”
“He had been getting quite a few at-bats lately,” Gawkowski said about Bessard. “He has been swinging it really well, and that was obviously a big home run. He has so much potential.”
The Clippers added another run, two batters later, on a solo blast by Marcoux to take a 5-1 lead.
Jet Box scored single runs in the seventh and eighth innings on wild pitches to make the score 5-3. The visitors threatened again in the ninth inning with runners on first and second with nobody out, but Muskegon pitcher Connor Vallie ended the game with back-to-back strikeouts.
Carsie Walker tossed the win for the Clippers, allowing one earned run on five hits in seven innings while striking out seven batters. Vallie was credited with a save.