Wolverine’s young guns claim Pastore crown

TOIVOLA – Wolverine-Orbit have quickly worn out their welcome in the Twilight League.

In a good way.

After a two-year absence from the local hardball circuit, things started tepidly for Wolverine a month ago when the young team of mostly former Hancock Post 186 Legion players lost its first two games of the season.

Wolverine have roared back quickly though, going on a three-game winning streak in League play before beating Stanton 9-6 and BlueSky Health 11-9 to win the Jack Pastore Memorial Tournament Championship game Saturday.

“We were kind of nervous after the first two games, thinking ‘oh man, this isn’t going to go so well,'” Wolverine co-manager Luke Paul said. “But we have found a nice lineup now, working mostly the same nine and substituting guys throughout. We’ve found our groove.”

In the five-game winning streak, Wolverine has brought the bats out in a big way.

Wolverine averaged just over 10 runs a game in the streak, and pounced on BlueSky early Saturday with nine runs in the first four innings.

Going up against former Legion teammate Brady Turner on the mound, Wolverine clawed its way to 11 hits and seven walks over the first four frames, giving Paul, the starting pitcher in the championship, breathing room to work out some wildness.

Luke Paul was named MVP of the Jack Pastore Tournament after going 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs in the final.

Josh Gomez topped the Wolverine lineup with three hits and two doubles. Jari Sague, Zach Hill, Chris Saari and Mike Saari each picked up two hits apiece.

Nels Paul, Luke’s father and co-manager, manned left field and first base while walking twice and punching a two-RBI single in the fifth frame.

“We’ve got guys doing a good job hitting from every spot,” Luke Paul said. “We are pretty deep that way.

“We just need a bit more speed at the bottom of the lineup,” he joked of his father’s batting spot.

Wolverine needed every run its hot bats could manage, with Luke Paul struggling with his control in the first and seventh innings.

He walked three and hit two batters in BlueSky’s four-run first frame, and gave back four of the six available runs in the final inning with three more walks.

An astute manager, however, he took himself off the mound and let Mike Saari close it out with two straight strikeouts.

“That was nervous, I couldn’t buy a strike for all my money,” Luke Paul said. “We had a such a big lead that I didn’t have such a tight chain on me, but once that little bloop (single) fell in, it was clear I was done. Great job by Mike closing it out.”

Paul is hoping the strong play will continue Tuesday against Mosquito Inn as Wolverine sits one game back of league-leading Toivola in the standings.

“It’s a blast doing [tournaments] like this,” Paul said. “Just good baseball.”