STANTON - After struggling in the Twilight League playoff championship for the better part of a decade, Stanton manager Daron Durocher knew the sooner the Wildcats scored the first run of game one against Pat's Foods (Hancock) Tuesday, the sooner the inevitable nerves would alleviate.
Stanton then proceeded to put up nine runs in the first inning.
Nerves - gone.
Stanton third baseman Erik Nettell slaps a tag on Pat’s Foods Lee Naugle in the fourth inning as Naugle tries to stretch a double into a triple. Stanton won 15-2 Tuesday night after a nine-run first inning and twice threw out runners at third base.
(DMG photo by Michael Bleach)
Stanton pitcher Mike Richards fields a swinging bunt from Pat’s CJ Lepisto. Richards struck out seven for the game and gave up two runs in five innings. (DMG photo by Michael Bleach)
And really, any hope for Pat's was gone too.
The Wildcats sent 13 batters to the plate in the first frame - taking advantage of four walks and two hit batsmen from Pat's starter Luke Paul - before pulling out a 15-2 win.
"There was some nerves there, I felt a little bit of nerves," Durocher said. "But it was pretty well over after (the first inning) in everybody's mind I would say. After that inning, everybody was at full confidence. You feel like you can't do any wrong."
Pat's 00020 - 2 6 1
Stanton 9240x - 15 12 1
WP: Mike Richards, 5 IP, 2 R, 6 H, 7 K, 2 BB
LP: Luke Paul, 3.1 IP, 14 R, 2 K, 4 BB, 4 HBP
Pat's: Travis Tollefson, 2-for-2, BB
Stanton: Daron Durocher, 1-for-1, 2 BB, 2 run; Josh Hibbard, 2-for-4, 2 RBI; Mike Richards, 3-for-3, 2B, 4 RBI; Erik Nettell, 2-for-4, 2B, RBI; Josh Koskela, 1-for-1, 2 BB, RBI; Brady Olson, 2-for-2, 2B, 2 RBI.
The first five hitters of the game reached safely for Stanton - with Durocher and No. 5 hitter Josh Koskela walking, Josh Hibbard and Mike Richards rapping hard singles and clean-up hitter Erik Nettell blasting a double to center field - and after a double-play ground out, Paul lost control. He plunked No. 7 hitter Brady Olson with two outs, walked Dax Durocher and hit Alex Johnson to load the bases.
Daron Durocher drew another walk to "drive" in a run and Hibbard and Mike Richards finished off the damage with 2-RBI hits. Richards alone picked up four RBIs in the inning.
Paul hit two more batters before being pulled in the third inning. All nine starters for Stanton had reached base safely by the second inning, and eight Wildcats got on multiple times in their four innings of at-bats.
The Wildcats recorded more runs (15) than outs made (12).
"He is not a bad pitcher, not at all," Durocher said of Paul. "But he is a young kid, and he even admitted that he had never gone up against a lineup like ours, where there is no such thing as an easy out. Every at-bat is a battle and it got away from him and then his control got away from him."
While a nine-spot in the first inning will win most games, Stanton starting pitcher Richards and some flashy defense made sure to take care of the rest.
Richards struck out seven - in 15 total outs - and walked two while allowing two runs in five innings. One Pat's batter was heard to be remarking, "that's a great curve," after grounding out meekly.
For those who did reach base, strong throws from Koskela and Hibbard to third base cut down two runners trying to take extra bags in the third and fourth innings, respectively.
"We can play some great defense when we put our mind to it," Durocher said. "And the guys were relaxed and confident out there with the big lead. It got away from us a bit in the fourth with the two runs - which I'm not too happy about - but for the most part it was a strong day."
Pat's will host Stanton at the Hancock Driving Park for game two Friday at 6:30.