Down 6-1 entering the third inning against ADM (7-4) on Wednesday, June 12, Perry was looking at a long ride home. That was until Kaleb Olejniczak stepped up to the plate and changed the whole evening with a crack of the bat and some help from his friends.
After Avery Meister got the ball rolling to load the bases, the offense went on autopilot and became ADM’s worst nightmare. Kato Dougan was walked, and Conner Kenyon and Alex Morales found their way home down the line to bring the game within one run. With the crew moving like clockwork, it was Olejniczak’s turn next.
Perry has been waiting for a home run all season, and Wednesday was the year anniversary of the centerfielder’s last time going yard. A grand slam to take the lead would be a true showstopper. He stopped the show.
After taking in the pitch, he went deep to bring in all the runners as he hit the third bag and turned the corner to be greeted by a Bluejay dugout that lost its collective mind as they took a 9-6 lead.
“(Coach Daniels) signaled me because I thought they were gonna have a chance to get me at third,” Olejniczak said. “And then once I saw [the ball fly past me] he signaled me home.”
With a sizable lead midway through, the Bluejays forced the Tigers to switch pitchers, leading to Perry being held to just one more run. That helped them cross the double-digit mark for the first time this season but after allowing ADM to hit the same threshold in walk-off fashion, Perry would lose 11-10 and fall to 0-9 to start the year.
“I think we played a better game hustle and effort-wise, focus-wise. But when you lose, that’s contagious. When you win, that’s also contagious. So part of it is turning that tide. Because when we start winning, and I believe it is there, those games will fall the other way.”
More plays like Olejniczak’s near-dinger and his clutch run coming in from first base during the final inning will surely help turn the team’s fortune, Daniels added if they can find a way to even out the peaks and valleys as a team.
“We’ve got find a way to get the highs and keep up but maintain the level-headedness,” Daniels said.
Perry left the field with just two errors compared to ADM’s four but fell behind in the hit count 15-6. With such a disparity between the hits and final score, Daniels said he saw more deliberation and patience at the plate than he’s seen this year.
“I think they’re getting more at-bats and seeing the ball better. At the beginning of the year, we struck out a lot. They’re starting to certainly put the ball in play more,” Daniels added, looking at the plate presence Wednesday.
On the mound, Perry stuck with Keghan West for all seven innings while ADM had a three-way timeshare. Daniels said he wanted to ride with the “best chance to win.” West put in the work to keep the game going into extra innings but an error at second base sent the Tigers walking off with the win in the 11th hour.
Perry now looks to ride off the momentum built in Adel with a home game against Saydel (1-8)