STANTON - The Stanton Wildcats were thrown a curveball Tuesday night as they looked to extend their Twilight regular season title to a postseason celebration.
Over and over again.
Looking to prey on the Wildcats' aggressiveness in the batter's box - and any nerves they might be having in their first playoff game - Mosquito Inn/Computer Mechanix (Toivola) starting pitcher Robert Brooks dropped in curve after curve in an attempt to wrong-foot the talented Stanton lineup.
It was a solid idea, if not one that was met with much success.
Stanton jumped on Toivola for eight runs in the first three innings, building a lead that starter Mike Richards easily protected for an 8-2 victory.
"You just need to show patience," Stanton manager Daron Durocher said. "Being able to stay back and then unload, cause if you swing to early you are going to pop it up. ... We have good veteran hitters who have experience in those situations before.
MICM 0000101 - 2 5 1
Stanton 323000x - 8 14 0
WP: Mike Richards, 7 IP, 2 R, 5 H, 10 K, 3 BB, 1 HBP
LP: Robert Brooks, 6 IP, 8 R, 14 H, 1 K, 3 BB
Toivola: Steve Lishinski, 2-for-2, 2B, 2 BB
Stanton: Daron Durocher, 2-for-4; Josh Hibbard, 2-for-4, 2B; Richards, 2-for-2, HR, 4 RBI, BB; Josh Koskela, 2-for-3, BB; Eli Luoma, 2-for-3, BB; Dax Durocher, 2-for-4, 2B.
"We came out on fire. We had eight batters come up in (each of) the first three innings. That was nice."
Stanton initially got on the board after a pair of outfield balls that could have been recorded as outs - with one officially charged as an error -extended the first inning of play, and Durocher, Josh Hibbard and Erik Nettell (via pinch-runner Trent Keteri) all came around to score. Richards and Thursday's likely starter Eli Luoma were responsible for the RBIs.
Richards and Dax Durocher scored again in the second inning, before Richards caught a breaking ball that didn't break quite enough and deposited t over the left-center fence for a three run homer. Including tournament play, it was Richards' sixth home run of the year.
Despite having four RBIs, two runs, a walk and a 2-for-2 night, he didn't put any faith in the theory that he bats better when it helps him pick up the 'W'.
"No, generally not, usually I am pretty lazy when I pitch, though I do think five of the six homers have come when I am pitching, so I'm not sure what that's about," Richards said. "But that curveball was tough tonight. He was throwing it slow - at like 50 miles per hour - but then backing it up with a 75 MPH fastball. It's a big difference."
"I just think he doesn't want to run the bases when he is pitching so a nice jog around them keeps his legs fresh," Durocher added.
With the way Richards was pitching, the eight runs were more than enough for Stanton to cruise the rest of the way.
The power righty scattered five hits over seven innings and struck out 10 against three walks. A high, hard fastball and tight breaking slider were most responsible for the looks of frustration on the Toivola hitters' faces.
"I was locating the fastball pretty well, it went where I wanted to throw it," Richards said. "In the second, with guys on first and second and no outs, I was able to get some strikeouts when I needed them."
Game two of the series will be Thursday in Toivola.