Stanton by 9 in 9
HANCOCK – Across any sport, there will always be misleading scores not representative of the game at hand, and occasionally, there is a final tally so deceptive that it requires further explanation.
And then there is whatever happened Tuesday evening at the Houghton County Driving Park between hosts Pat’s Foods and league-leading Stanton.
Through seven innings, the Twilight League pair played even – albeit occasionally sloppy – baseball in muggy heat that touched 90 degrees. The teams exchanged leads four times in seven innings before Pat’s Clint Heikkila lined the game-tying single in the bottom of the seventh frame to call for extras.
After an uneventful eighth inning, Stanton exploded in the top of the ninth with nine straight runs at the expense of Pat’s relief pitcher Zach Hill – including back-to-back homers from Josh Hibbard and Paul Kuoppala – before Pat’s managed to record an out.
As the Hancock-based squad dropped meekly in the fading daylight (the last out was recorded at 9:55 p.m.), the final score of the extra inning game rested at 17-8.
“Man, that was weird,” Hibbard said.
“It has been 17 years and I have watched many games before this,” Stanton manager and winning pitcher in relief Daron Durocher added. “It’s not that I haven’t seen something like this, I was actually on the wrong side of one in my younger years. But it came in the first inning, not the ninth that they score that many.
“That was strange. I’m glad we did it, but it was strange. It was a really good ball game until that final inning.”
The Wildcats pounded eight hits in the ninth inning – a hit total that matched their output for the previous eight frames – and took advantage of three wild pitches and an error to run rampant across the diamond.
In three-plus innings of work, Hill ended up responsible for 11 runs, with four walks, a hit batter and four strikeouts to his credit.
“(Hill) is a young kid, and he is kind of going through what all young pitchers do,” Durocher said. “He is a little bit wild, a little bit inconsistent, and everybody had a nice patient approach. I know for me, the key was laying off the curveball and waiting for the straighter stuff. It took a few innings, but we caught up to him eventually.”
Through the first four innings, both Pat’s starter Lee Naugle and Stanton starting hurler Trent Keteri were dealing early, allowing two runs each while working around some defensive lapses.
The naked heat forced both out of the game earlier than they would have wanted, however, leaving room for the score to inflate with the relievers on the mound.
“The heat definitely forced both starters out of the game earlier than usual,” Durocher said. “It shortened both of them. … And as Lee is probably the hardest thrower in the league, that’s not such a bad thing.”
Pat’s took a 7-4 lead in the bottom of the fifth when a trio of singles and Naugle’s two-run home run helped usher Keteri from the game. They were unable to hold the lead, however, with the Wildcats scoring four over the final two innings on just four hits.
The win improved Stanton’s record to 6-1 with Pat’s dropping to 2-3.
“Guys just had good at-bats,” Durocher said. “They got the job done.”