Copper Country runners-up
LIMINGA — The Tri-City North Stars of Negaunee came to the Leo Durocher Memorial Baseball Tournament title game with scorching bats, having trounced Wolverine-Orbit 15-3 in the semifinals earlier in the afternoon Sunday.
And against Dean Kangas-State Farm in the title game, it appeared more of the same when the North Starts started the top of the first inning with two runs off State Farm’s Jason Koski.
But an adjustment by Koski held the North Stars in check the rest of the way, and State Farm’s Kyle Storm recorded three RBIs, including a two-run homer, to lead State Farm to a 5-2 victory in the finals Sunday at the Stanton field in Stanton Township northwest of Houghton.
The North Stars team of the former Wishigan League re-formed just for this tournament after team members helped form the Superiorland Baseball League based out of Marquette County this summer.
“After the first inning, me and my catcher, Scott Pietila, decided no more fastballs,” said Koski, who pitched all seven innings and allowed two runs on seven hits and one walk while striking out two. “They’re a good fastball-hitting team, so I started to throw a lot of off-speed stuff. Credit goes to Scott on that one.
“It was pretty clear something had to change (after that first inning) if we wanted to have a chance to win the game.”
While Koski and Pietila discussed strategy after the first half inning, Storm provided the offensive equalizer with his no-doubt, two-run homer over the right field fence to score Jay Daavettila.
State Farm scored the go-ahead run when Travis Wesa tallied an RBI single to score Brian Juopperi for a 3-2 advantage in the first inning.
Of the 10 hits State Farm had off Hutchens, five came in the three-run first inning. The North Stars pitcher threw his second complete game in as many days, striking out three and walking one.
Following Negaunee’s first-inning outburst, with an RBI double from Spencer Larson and a RBI from Steve Hintsala, the North Stars managed to get a runner in scoring position in every inning except the seventh. But each time, they failed to convert, including the third and fifth innings when they stranded a runner on third base.
“Just some baseball things happened where we hit the ball right to somebody and ran into a hot team,” Negaunee player-coach James Larsen II said. “There’s not much margin of error when you get to a championship game.”
While there were plenty of missed opportunities for Negaunee, the one that could’ve hurt the most came in the sixth with no outs and C.J. Lepisto on second.
Trailing 4-2, Negaunee’s Brad Jalonen ripped a liner back to the mound, only to see Koski snag the line drive and toss over to second to double up Lepisto, who was already making his way to third.
“I was very proud of our defense this weekend,” Juopperi said. “We did a good job of limiting the errors this entire weekend.”
State Farm’s Matt Helminen scored the team’s fourth run in the fifth inning on a solo home run to left field. Storm added one final insurance run in the sixth inning on his third RBI to score Brady Turner from first.
To advance to the championship game, State Farm topped REL Inc.-Mohawk Technologies 10-2 Sunday morning.
North Stars on Saturday
The North Stars reach the title game with a pair of wins on Saturday.
In the opener, Tri-City downed REL Inc.-Mohawk Technologies 7-1. Ex-Marquette Blues standout Riley Lynch went the distance for the North Stars, allowing four hits and four walks while striking out 11 in seven innings. Ex-Negaunee High School star Grant Johnson took the loss for REL-Mohawk, scoring his team’s only run, too.
Tri-City scored five runs in the second and two more in the third with Craig Storm going 2 for 2 with a RBI, run and walk.
The North Stars pulled out a tough 5-4 victory in Saturday’s later game over Superior National Bank-Stanton Wildcats. Hutchens scattered 14 hits over seven innings, allowing just two earned runs in going the distance while walking three and fanning two.
Stanton took a 2-1 lead in the third before Tri-City tied it in the fourth and took a 5-2 lead in the fifth.
Stanton got single runs back in the sixth and seventh, when the Wildcats loaded the bases with two outs before Storm made what was called a nifty catch to end the game.
For Tri-City, former Finlandia infielder C.J. Lepisto had two hits including a double and scored twice, while ex-Ishpeming Blue Storm slugger Brad Jalonen also had a couple hits with an RBI.