DOLLAR BAY - BlueSky Health manager and occasional pitcher Jason Koski has seen Twilight League power Stanton put up quite a few crooked numbers over the years. So Saturday, in the championship final of the Jack Pastore Tournament, he decided it was time to change(up) his approach.
Koski threw out the conventional pitching method - get ahead of the hitters with fastballs and put them away with an off-speed pitch - and worked out a new strategy.
"I honestly was just trying to throw as slow as I can," Koski said. "I would try to mix in a fastball here and there, but I was just trying to keep them off.
Michael Bleach/Daily Mining Gazette
BlueSky Health starting pitcher Jason Koski high-fives teammates after the 4-1 victory over Stanton in the Jack Pastore Tournament Saturday. Koski pitched a complete game seven innings and gave up just one run and six base runners in the win.
"Stanton is a really good fastball hitting team so I was just trying something different. They have beat me so many times before that my approach was just try something totally different."
With just one run and six hits allowed in the 4-1 win, Koski would do well to remember that curveball-changeup approach when BSH hosts the Wildcats Thursday.
Koski struck out three - without walking any - and retired 14 hitters in a row at one point in the complete game effort.
BlueSky Health 0000121 - 4 8 0
Stanton 0000001 - 1 6 1
WP: Jason Koski, 7 IP, 1 R, 6 H, 3 K, 0 BB
LP: Eli Luoma, 7 IP, 4 R, 8 H, 6 K, 5 BB (2 HBP)
BlueSky Health: Brian Juopperi, 3-for-3, 3 RBI, BB; Mark Nordstrom, 1-for-3, 2B, 2 runs.
Stanton: Dax Durocher, 2-for-3, RBI.
"He went from slow to slower and then he would throw fastball in there that made it look a (heck) of a lot faster than it was," Stanton manager and leadoff hitter Daron Durocher said.
For the better part of an hour, however, it looked like Koski's imaginative effort might go to waste. BlueSky stranded six hitters through the first three innings, including a pop-up (from Koski) and strike-out with the bases loaded, and then posted three straight K's in the third after Johnny Raisanen and Brian Juopperi led off the frame with walks.
But Mark Nordstrom and Juopperi finally gave BSH the lead after Nordstrom led off the fifth with a double and Juopperi singled him home.
Juopperi, the No. 3 hitter, tallied two more RBIs with another single one inning later when Stanton starter Eli Luoma briefly lost control and hit Ray Wojtala with a pitch and then walked Nordstrom and Raisanen.
Koski scored the final BlueSky run in the seventh after getting on base with a ball dinging off his helmet and coming around on a Wojtala single.
"In the first few innings we left a few guys stranded - I know one time I popped up with the bases loaded - and it was nice to finally get a few across," Koski said.
"We figured one run was not going to be enough to beat Stanton and we were right."
Koski's superlative pitching effort was aided - and occasionally, in Stanton's eyes, abetted - with clean defensive support.
The outfield turned 10 fly balls into outs, including several hard hit line drives.
"You have to play clean defense and score on your opportunities," Koski said. "Our defense was fantastic, we didn't give them any free outs. That was the recipe for success."
"We hit the ball pretty well I thought," Durocher added. "Not great, but pretty well. It just seemed that everything we hit they were playing us perfectly for it. Credit to them."
Besides giving BlueSky Health the Pastore title, the victory also injected some energy into a regular season title race that Stanton had been running away with.
"We final beat Stanton, we beat them once before in the Leo Durocher tournament, but I think we only beat them that one time in four years," Koski said. "Now we know that if we play well, we can hang with them."
BlueSky Health defeated Pat's Foods 4-3 in the opening round and Stanton knocked off Mosquito Inn/Computer Mechanix 6-4.