STANTON - Two batters in to Thursday's Twilight League game, Pat's Foods was already on to Plan B.
But it was a heck of a plan and it turned out to be a winner as the visitors surprised host Stanton 10-7.
Scheduled starting pitcher C.J. Lepisto, hitting second, was hit in the face by a pitch in the first inning. He walked off under his own power but bleeding from an ostensibly broken nose.
Pat’s Foods pitcher Lee Naugle, celebrates the last out of Thursday’s 10-7 win over Stanton with catcher Andrew Ewer. Naugle had a two-run homer and pitched a complete game after getting pressed into service when original starter C.J. Lepisto was hit by a pitch. (DMG photo by Brandon Veale)
The round of applause for Lepisto walking off had barely died down before Lee Naugle blasted the next pitch at least 20 feet over the fence in left for a 2-0 lead.
He said he expected a fastball from Stanton's Trent Keteri and that's exactly what he got.
"I was kind of just looking for that and I was going to go for it if I saw it," he said.
Naugle, who had pitched five innings in the first game of a doubleheader split with BlueSky Health Tuesday, had expected to take the ball for a few more frames in relief. He ended up going the distance, and one of the league's best pitchers, was effective most of the evening.
"They're always in contention," Naugle said of the Wildcats. "If we score, they score, we're always close to them."
Naugle spoke from experience, as Stanton took the lead in the third after Paul Kuoppala tripled to right, scoring Daron Durocher, and came in on Erik Nettell's single down the right-field line. Nettell made it 4-2 after a routine grounder to second triggered a 270-foot sprint for the burly third baseman due to a fielding error and a bad throw.
Pat's turned the game on its ear in the fifth with five runs. After watching Andrew Ewer score on a wild pitch, Clint Heikkila added to the lead with a two-run single to center.
Stanton closed in on its next opportunity, as Nettell singled in a run and Kuoppala scored on a wild pitch, but Naugle struck out the side to get out of the threat with a 7-6 lead.
In just the next half-inning Pat's pulled away, posting a three-spot on Heikkila's sacrifice fly and a two-run single by Dan Pertile.
A pair of doubles and walk put the Wildcats' tying run at the plate in the seventh, but Naugle got a strikeout and a fly to right to end the game.
Pete Guidotti, standing in for son Marco and making the moves for Pat's Thursday, said he asked Naugle for only three or four innings.
"He said, 'I feel fine, I feel fine,' and I think he kept getting stronger as the game went on," he said.
The final total for Naugle was six earned runs on 10 hits. He walked three and struck out eight.
Nettell had four of Stanton's hits, including three straight RBI singles. Saari added a single and a double.
Keteri took the loss, allowing eight earned runs on 11 hits. He fanned eight and walked three, one intentionally.
Devin Kero led the Pat's offense with a 3-for-5 night. Ewer and Pertila had two hits apiece.
The glut of rained-out games has led to a one-week delay in the playoffs to get as many games as possible in.
At close of play Thursday, Stanton (9-5) has a half-game lead over BlueSky (9-6) and will make up that game key game for the championship race on Tuesday in Dollar Bay. If BlueSky wins Tuesday, Stanton will need to make up a rained-out trip to L'Anse Thursday and attempt to force a tie atop the standings (the teams will have split four games in that situation).
Meanwhile, Pat's (7-5) will host L'Anse Tuesday (3-9) and Mosquito-Inn Toivola (5-8) Wednesday and can still earn homefield advantage for the first round if it wins out.