USPBL Weekend Recap: Woolly Mammoths take over first place

A beautiful Memorial Day weekend around Michigan (by and large, at least) set the stage for an extended weekend at the United Shore Professional Baseball League in Utica.

As usual, the weekly USPBL schedule began on Thursday but there were five games played this week, with teams capping it off on Memorial Day. Here is a recap of how things shook out:

Thursday, May 25 | Diamond Hoppers 3, Beavers 2

The Eastside Diamond Hoppers and Birmingham-Bloomfield Beavers kicked off the holiday weekend, and it was the Hoppers picking up a 3-2 win, holding the Beavers to just one hit.

A Nic Wilson solo home run in the first was the only official knock for the Beavers on Thursday. It was also the only lead for Birmingham-Bloomfield, as Eastside answered in the home half with two runs.

Esteban Gomez for the Hoppers grounded out to score a run, then Kam Stewart singled in a run in the next at-bat to give Eastside a 2-1 lead at the time. The score stood until the top of the fourth, when the Beavers tied it up on a Hoppers error in the field, scoring Bobby San Martin. But the tie score was short-lived, as Eastside re-claimed the lead in the home half of the 5th on a Chris Power solo shot.

Matt Rodgers for Eastside went five innings and allowed just the two runs (one earned) on one hit, despite walking four batters. Brian Bayless Jr. meanwhile for the Beavers also went five innings, charged with all three runs on four hits and four walks.

Friday, May 26 | Woolly Mammoths 6, Unicorns 4

After scoring just one run in their two games played last week, the Westside Woolly Mammoths scraped together six runs to down the Unicorns Friday night at Jimmy John's Field.

Westside first baseman Tyler McVicar was the player of the game on Friday for either club. He drove in three runs, which came on a two-run double in the fourth that tied the game up at 2-2; and an RBI single in the eighth, part of a four-run frame for the Mammoths.

Utica clubbed a pair of home runs on Friday, one from Nicco Lollio and one form Clay Ardeeser, both of which were of the solo variety. Utica held a 3-2 lead after seven innings, but a wild pitch and fielding error in the top half of the eighth aided in scoring two of Westside's four runs in the inning.

Jeremy Holcombe for Westside went seven innings and allowed three runs on five hits and two walks. Donny Murray for Utica went just four innings and was tagged for two runs on two hits and two walks.

Saturday, May 27 | Unicorns 8, Diamond Hoppers 7

Facing a four-game losing skid, the Unicorns bounced back in a big way, picking up their first week since Opening Day with an 8-7 win over the Hoppers.

And there was no shortage of drama on Saturday as well. The Unicorns scored three in the bottom of the ninth and walked it off on an RBI single from Clay Ardeeser. It was his only hit in the game, but it was one of his three runs batted in, the other two coming on sacrifice flies earlier in the contest.

Both teams combined for 21 hits, with Utica being responsible for 12 of them. Luke Doyle and Brandon Rawe each turned in three-hit games; Rawe also driving in a pair of runs. For Eastside, five different players drove in a single run and three players record multi-hit games.

Neither starter lasted very long in this one. Eastside's Devin Alexander went just three innings and allowed three runs on three hits. Brandon Nagem for Utica only went four frames, but was only charged with two runs (one earned) on two hits, but also walked three.

Sunday, May 28 | Woolly Mammoths 5, Beavers 3

The Woolly Mammoths continued their weekend winning ways in a Sunday afternoon tilt vs. the Beavers, picking up a 5-3 win over Birmingham-Bloomfield.

The game remained scoreless entering the fifth inning, when Westside opened up the scoring with RBI singles from Tyler McVicar and Nick Crouse, as well as an RBI sac fly from Jeff Smith. Both McVicar and Crouse each had two hits in the contest.

The Beavers incrementally tied it up over their next four at-bats, with single runs in the fifth, seventh and eighth innings. Their run scored in the fifth came off the bat of DonAndre Clark II on a fielder's choice. Clark added four hits in his other ABs for a 4-5 day, also scoring a run later in the game.

A two-run ninth seal the deal for Westside, giving them their third win in their last four games. Mammoths starter David Ernst was solid, going five innings and yielded just one run on five hits. B-B starter Randy Wynne did all he could to give the Beavers a chance, going 4.2 innings and allowed the three runs in the fifth.

Monday, May 29 | Unicorns 8, Diamond Hoppers 4

It was déjà vu on Memorial Day. Just like the Saturday tilt between the Utica and Eastside, it was the Unicorns ending up on the right side of the ledger with a victory to cap off the extended weekend.

They raced out two an early 2-0 lead after two innings and eventually a 7-1 lead after five innings played. The Hoppers managed to cut into the Unicorns' lead with a three-run sixth inning, but could not overcome the deficit entirely on Monday. Utica added an eighth insurance run in the seventh.

Four different players for the Unicorns drove in runs on Monday. Nicco Lollio had just one hit in the game, but it was good for a grand slam, part of that five-run fifth inning for Utica. Leadoff man Taylor Grzelakowski added two hits and two RBI, and Brandon Larkin-Guilfoyle recorded his first USPBL hit (of two on the day) and RBI.

For Eastside, Kam Stewart drove in two runs, while Esteban Gomez and Ricky Castro each had one RBI.

Utica starter Sam Burton went five innings and allowed just one run on four hits and a walk, striking out five. Eastside starter Myles Richard was tagged for seven earned runs over just 4.2 innings of work.

Updated USPBL Standings (Through 05/29)

Westside Woolly Mammoths 4 2 20 14
Eastside  Diamond Hoppers 4 3 36 35
Utica Unicorns 3 4 32 30
Birmingham-Bloomfield Beavers 2 4 12 21