MUSKEGON – Fermin Osio sure picked the right time to break out of his long home run slump.
The Muskegon Clippers, desperately battling to stay alive in the league playoff race in the final week of the season, were trailing the Royal Oak Leprechauns by two runs in the fourth inning on Mond
Then Osio stepped to the plate with two men on, took a big cut and homered to left field, giving the Clippers all the runs they needed to beat Royal Oak 5-3 at Marsh Field.
The victory was a nice bounce-back for Muskegon, which lost the first game of the series 12-0 on Sunday night.
“I have been a little down at the plate recently,” Osio said. “I knew that was a big situation for the team and I needed to get those runs in. It was my first home run in a couple years, and it felt good off the bat.”
The Clippers, now 15-18 on the season, are battling for second place and the final playoff spot in the Great Lakes League’s North Division. They are currently in fifth place, three wins behind the second-place Lima Locos, two behind Jet Box and one behind the Sandusky Ice Haulers with five games remaining.
The Clippers will continue their home stand on Tuesday and Wednesday with very three big games against Jet Box. On Tuesday the teams will finish a game that was suspended due to rain at 5 p.m., then play a full game at 7:05 p.m. The final game of the regular season will be Wednesday at 7:05 p.m.
The Clippers will finish the regular season with a two-game series in Royal Oak on Friday and Saturday.
“This win changes the mood, because now we can string together a three-game winning streak in two days,” Fleener said. “It was just nice to get back out there after last night’s ugly seven-inning game. These players will need to be locked in tomorrow, as well.”
The Clippers failed to get a hit in the first three innings, while the Leprechauns scored on a sacrifice fly in the first inning and an RBI groundout in the fourth to take a 2-0 lead.
Muskegon finally came to life in the fourth inning. It started with a very long home run to left-center field by Trent Nielsen, putting the home team on the board.
Stoney Smith followed with a single and August Hutchison doubled to put runners in scoring position, leading the Fermin’s three-run bomb that put the home team ahead for good.
Muskegon added a run in the sixth inning, scoring on a wild pitch.
The Clipper bullpen played a key role. Isaac Toole got the win after allowing one run on one hit in two innings. Ben Alderson retired all eight batters he faced, with five strikeouts, and closer Lukas Brewer tossed a clean ninth inning while striking out two.
“He (Alderson) dominated, and it was one of the most impressive relief outings we’ve had all year,” Fleener said. “We asked him to get three or six outs and he gave us nine, and it set things up for our closer.”
Hutchison and Osio paced the Muskegon offense with two hits apiece.