STANTON - Be it an untimely gust of wind, lack of concentration or just plain bad luck, the L'Anse Lakers dropped two fly balls in the first inning against Stanton Thursday, giving the Wildcats two free outs.
Two too many.
Stanton plated five runners in the opening frame, providing enough of a cushion to cruise to a 9-4 win and improve to a Twilight League-best 3-1 record.
Dax Durocher, left, and Paul Kuoppala high five after the pair score in the first inning Thursday off Brooks Olson's single. Stanton scored five runs in the opening frame. (DMG photo by Michael Bleach)
"It is always good to score early and relieve some pressure," Stanton manager and winning pitcher Daron Durocher said. "Especially because then (L'Anse pitcher Kris Turunen) settled in. We sure did take advantage of their errors and that probably won the game for us.
"We really needed it to with (the loss to BlueSky Health Tuesday). You never want to go on a losing streak, especially with new players not used to it."
Second baseman Dax Durocher and outfielder Brooks Olson - the seventh and eighth hitters in the order, respectively - made L'Anse pay for the defensive miscues with two line drives that led to a trio of runs all with two outs after the second dropped ball.
L'Anse 0003100 - 4 11 2
Stanton 503010x - 9 9 1
Winning Pitcher: Daron Durocher, 7 IP, 9 runs, 9 hits, 6 K, 2 BB.
Losing Pithcer: Kris Turunen, 4 IP, 9 runs, 9 hits, 1 K, 2 BB.
L'Anse - Joey Richards, 2-4, 2B; Kris Turunen, 1-3, 3B; Tyler LaDuron, 2-4, 2B, 2 SB, RBI.
Stanton - Josh Hibbard, 2-3, 2B; Erik Nettell, 2-3, 2B, 2 RBI; Dax Durocher, 2-3, 2B, RBI; Brooks Olson, 2-3, 3 RBI.
Dax Durocher singled again in the third inning to score Paul Kuoppala and Olson drove in Dax in the next at-bat.
The depth in the lineup proved crucial with three of the top six hitters (unusually) failing to record a hit.
"Dax is coming around a lot here. He has really come around," Daron Durocher said. "He has eased the pain of missing Eli (Luoma) and Mike (Richards) because he has stepped in and is doing really well."
In fact, Brooks Olson secured a spot in the lineup as Daron Durocher was riding an inkling that Olson was holding a hot bat.
"He did it (Tuesday) in the (shortened) game and then I didn't play him in the next game, even though he had a double," Daron Durocher said. "And I thought, 'what am I thinking?' And I had a hunch and I went with it today and it paid off."
The Lakers avoided the mercy rule with a three-run fourth inning and the pitching combination of Turunen and Brett Martinez did enough to confound the Wildcat bats, but L'Anse never managed to make up the first inning deficit.
Daron Durocher's consistency on the mound and the solid defense behind him had quite a bit to do with that.
Durocher struck out six, utilizing an impressive changeup, but impressed most with his ability to control the strike zone. L'Anse drew just two walks for the game and had several hard-hit balls turned into outs as Durocher pumped in strikes continuously.
"I hate walking people, that just sucks," Durocher said. "I just hate it. So I trust my defense enough that I try and let them hit it.
"I don't have an outstanding fastball so I just try to throw it over the plate and make them hit it. I did get some swings and misses today - I'm not quite sure why. I just really try to change speeds. Especially because I didn't have an outstanding curveball today, so I really had to rely on the changeup."
It was the first look the Wildcats were given of the newcomers L'Anse and Durocher was convinced of the threat they would pose in the future.
"They have a lot of speed. A lot. They have some young guys who can run, and they are going to be good," Durocher said.