STANTON - Given an opportunity to clinch the regular season title Thursday, the Stanton Wildcats left no doubt who reigned as the best team in the Twilight League.
Josh Hibbard blasted a grand slam and Josh Koskela and Eli Luoma both added solo home runs - all three of the no-doubter variety - as Stanton mercy-ruled Mosquito Inn/Computer Mechanix (Toivola) 11-0 in five innings.
While Stanton are regular season championship veterans, and there was little doubt they would win this season with a four-game lead over BlueSky Health, it was still a satisfying accomplishment for manager Daron Durocher after the now-defunct Quincy's/Computer Mechanix won the 2011 title.
Stanton’s Josh Hibbard (center)?celebrates his grand slam with teammates during the Wildcats’ 11-0 win over Mosquito Inn/Computer Mechanix Thursday. The win clinched Stanton the Twilight League regular season title. (DMG photo by Michael Bleach)
"It just feels nice," Durocher said. "We have a great group of guys, and they make it so I don't really have to do too much managing. They have all played well this year."
Eight hitters for Stanton have posted a batting average over .300 this season - with Erik Nettell, Luoma and Koskela all above .400 - and they boast plenty of power to go with that on-base ability.
Along with the three round-trippers, Durocher doubled to lead off the game, giving the Wildcats a total of 34 extra-base hits in 12 contests. MI/CM's Steve Lishinski was the victim Thursday, giving up nine hits in four innings as he took the loss.
MICM 00000 - 0 3 3
Stanton 2522x - 11 9 0
WP: Trent Keteri, 5 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 3 K, 0 BB
LP: Steve Lishinski, 4 IP, 11 R, 9 H, 2 K, 1 BB
Stanton: Josh Hibbard, 1-for-2, grand slam, 3 runs.
Stanton took advantage of three errors and two wild pitches as well - extra outs and bases one cannot give a team of Stanton's ability. Two of the men on base for Hibbard's grand slam reached via error.
"You know, a couple of years I stopped loving the home run because it seemed like the only way we could score," Durocher said. "And we have to make sure that we are manufacturing runs. But boy, it was really working for us tonight."
Along with his deep stable of hitters, Durocher has been able to develop some young talent from the high school ranks as well, giving Stanton a bright future.
High-schooler Trent Keteri was at the forefront Thursday, tossing five shutout innings, with three strikeouts and just three hits allowed.
Most impressively, Keteri didn't walk anybody either.
"I really like that," Durocher said of Keteri, who induced 10 ground outs Thursday. "Make them put it in play, make them earn it. We have a good defense backing him up."
Now with the regular season title clinched, the challenge for Stanton will be remaining sharp for the playoffs in several weeks.
It has been an area that has challenged the Wildcats in recent years.
"We haven't won the playoffs in something like seven of the last nine years," Durocher said. "I would like to see us have more success there. But we just have to keep doing what we are doing."