DOLLAR BAY - Leave it to a team sponsored by a supermarket to produce in a big game.
Pat's Foods got seven strong innings from pitcher Preston Hutchens and advanced to the Twilight League Championship Series with a 6-1 win over BlueSky Health in the rubber match of their best-of-three series Sunday.
"We're in uncharted waters for this team," Pat's manager Pete Guidotti said.
Pat’s Foods pitcher Preston Hutchens delivers during Sunday’s Twilight League Playoff Game 3 against BlueSky Health in Dollar Bay. Hutchens allowed just one run in Pat’s 6-1 victory. (DMG photo by Brandon Veale)
Pat's now tangles with Stanton for the title in a best-of-three series to begin Tuesday (6:30 p.m.) at Stanton.
BlueSky won all five meetings with Pat's in the regular season, but Hutchens didn't pitch in any of them. The southpaw shut down the home team's bats, allowing one run on five hits.
"He likes hitting the corners and he's good at it, too," Guidotti said.
Pat's 0300102 - 6 8 3
BSH 0001000 - 1 5 2
WP - Preston Hutchens, CG, 1 ER, 5 H, 1 K, 1 BB
LP - Emmett Bjorn, CG, 4 ER, 8 H, 1 K, 2 BB
Pat's - Luke Paul, 2-for-4, HR, 2 RBIs
BSH - Keith Halonen, 2-for-4
Hutchens said the key to his success was a little bit of everything, and well-organized.
"I have to give it up to (catcher) Johnny (Markham) because he called a heck of a game. He kept them off-balance all game," he said.
Markham also kick-started the Pat's offense in the second inning with a two-out RBI single. He and Travis Tollefson came around on a hit from C.J. Lepisto and the visitors held a 3-0 lead.
Hutchens stranded the bases loaded in the first inning and two men on in the third, but the only blemish against him was Dan Juopperi's RBI double in the fourth.
"Ultimately, we just kept them down, and that was the great thing about it," Hutchens said.
Pat's regained its three-run lead nearly immediately, with a one-out sacrifice fly from Lee Naugle in the fourth, then essentially locked up the series on Luke Paul's two-run shot to right field in the seventh off BlueSky starter Emmett Bjorn.
"They made him throw pitches tonight. I think that helped a lot," Guidotti said.
It was a tough way to end the season for BlueSky, which finishes with a record of 10-8.
"We just couldn't figure him out in Game 1 and there was no difference in Game 3," manager/infielder Jason Koski said. "They just outplayed us. It's the bottom line."
Bjorn had a decent outing, allowing just eight hits, seven of them singles, but four of them came in the second as Pat's took control of the game. Keith Halonen had a pair of singles to lead BlueSky offensively.
For Pat's, Paul added a single to his home run for the only multi-hit game.
They'll go into Tuesday's series as major underdogs, having lost all five regular-season meetings, but they go into the series without fear.
"We lost one, but I still think we played good baseball," Guidotti said. "I'm looking forward to playing Stanton, I really am."