Hancock Legion hopefully peaking at right time

HANCOCK – Everyone likes to go into the playoffs on a win, and that’s the benefit the Hancock Post 186 American Legion baseball team earned in a split doubleheader with Channing Thursday.

The Railroaders took game one 6-4, but Hancock surged to a 13-1 victory in the nightcap, shortened to five innings. Only the opener counts in the Mid-Pen League standings.

“They really picked up the pace, they gained some confidence. Hans Stimac did a really nice job of throwing strikes. When you do that, your defense stays on their toes, everyone stays in the game and they play more efficiently,” Hancock manager Ron Stimac said.

Hans Stimac allowed just three hits in five innings, struck out four and did not issue a walk.

Hancock, eager to put a six-error performance in the opener behind them, had just one defensive mistake in game two and that runner was immediately erased on a 6-3 double play.

An error by Channing on the infield led to Hancock’s first run, allowing Brad Juntunen to score after getting on base with a one-out single.

The hosts exploded for seven runs in the second inning, achieving three runs on three hits and an error before Channing recorded the first out. Brad Juntunen’s single to center scored two. Brad Ward also had an RBI as Hancock finished the frame with four hits, three walks, two errors and a 7-0 lead.

“The boys’ sticks really came around. They had big hits when they needed to, even with two outs, it helped us get a lead, and we held it,” Ron Stimac said.

The outburst chased Channing starter Myke Zaritz after 1 1/3 innings.

Channing got on the board when Zaritz singled in Noah Berg, but Hans Stimac got out of the inning soon after and Hancock put the game away with six runs in the fourth on five hits, three walks and a series of wild pitches.

Juntunen had three hits and Durocher two.

In game one, defensive problems helped the visitors get the upper hand early and they held Hancock off down the stretch.

“That game should have been probably 1-0, but defensively both teams struggled and we struggled a little bit more,” Ron Stimac said.

Channing jumped out to a 6-1 lead after four innings with help from two in the third and three in the fourth.

“The first game was the league game, so that’s what we were trying to win. The second game, the wheels fell off. We kind of ran out of steam,” Channing manager Rob Berg said.

In the third, Joel Vanlanen’s double drove in Derek Wagner and he came around to score.

Six straight Channing runners reached in the fourth with help from three errors, a single, a walk and a hit by pitch.

Hancock got back into it in the fifth with three runs on two hits, an error and a walk, but didn’t have a hit in the last two innings.

“Christian Cortright had a four-hitter and we still lost 6-4. Christian Cortright pitched really well. He deserved to win that game,” Ron Stimac said.

Noah Berg earned the win, allowing four hits and seven walks, but striking out 11.

Hancock reaches the end of the Mid-Pen League season with a 2-10 mark and is currently 4-13 overall. The league tournament starts Monday in Channing and Hancock expects to see Ishpeming in its opener.

“I think the biggest thing for us is trying to get better every day and we’re seeing that. We’re starting to see some results. We’re a really young team for Legion play, we’ve got a lot of 15-, 16-year old kids. We’re really young in a 17, 18, 19-year-old league,” Ron Stimac said.

“We’re looking forward to the playoffs. We think we’ve got a chance to shock some people.”