Pat’s cleans up early deficit, beats BlueSky

HANCOCK – The beginning was rocky but the result a gem Thursday for Pat’s Foods in Twilight League play.

The hosts spotted BlueSky Health three runs in the top of the first inning, but came back with four in the bottom half and went on to win 9-5 at Hancock Driving Park.

“It was nice we got a chance to get on the board right away in the bottom of the first. That shift in momentum really helped,” Pat’s rightfielder Marco Guidotti said.

Back-to-back doubles from Chase Sturos and Scott Wesa did the damage, but catcher Andrew Ewer offered the reply, homering to one of the deepest parts of the park in right-center for two RBIs. Ross Kinnunen later singled in Lee Naugle, and Clint Heikkila scored on a wild pitch.

BlueSky tied it up again in the third after Luke Peterson beat the throw home from shortstop on Ray Wojtala’s grounder, but again, Pat’s offered a swift response. They got the first two runners on, chasing BlueSky stater Keith Halonen, then made the best of a bad situation: After the pitch on which Brent Jurmu struck out went to the backstop, Heikkila rounded third and scored in the midst of a chaos in which Pat’s players were yelling at Jurmu to run to first (mistakenly; the base was occupied at the time of the strikeout) and BlueSky players were yelling to direct Wojtala, just in at catcher, toward the ball.

Pat’s got its insurance runs in a slightly more conventional manner. In the fourth, starting pitcher Naugle doubled over the head of the outfield to the right-field fence, bringing in Dan Pertile and Ewer.

In his next at-bat, Naugle went a few feet better. Swinging from his toes, he got under a Owen Kariniemi pitch and flew it to the opposite field. Following the breeze, it floated over the right-field fence into a tree for a two-run homer and a 9-4 lead.

Naugle, attempting to close out the game himself, got into trouble after a pair of hits and an error led to a run and brought the tying man to the on-deck circle with no outs. However, he induced weak pop-ups from Wojtala, Kariniemi and Jason Koski in succession to retire the side.

“We kept the errors to a minimum and if we did have something, it was a short memory,” said Guidotti, who had an excellent catch in the fifth inning of a rocket off the bat of Scott Wesa.

Naugle finished with four earned runs in the seven innings. He allowed eight hits and two walks, but struck out seven.

He and Ewer combined for six of Pat’s eight hits. Ewer also went 3-for-4.

For BlueSky, Halonen took the loss, going two-plus innings. He struck out three, walked two, hit two batters and allowed three hits. Kariniemi’s four innings of relief included three strikeouts and a walk. He allowed five hits and four earned runs.

Sturos had three hits, including the first-inning two-RBI double, in defeat.

The loss drops BlueSky to 5-5, 2 1/2 games behind league-leading Stanton (which was idle Thursday). Pat’s is now at 3-4, tied for third with L’Anse, but will have a busy rest of July after having three games postponed and a fourth suspended thus far. Thursday’s win was their first since June 7.