Back in the swing
STANTON – Paul Kuoppala returned to the Superior National Bank-Stanton roster Friday night and led the way offensively with a home run and another RBI, but it was not enough to overcome defensive errors throughout the night as Stanton fell to the visiting Channing Railroaders, 8-4, in both teams’ openers of the?Leo Durocher Tournament at Stanton Field.
Despite the score not working out in their favor, Stanton did some good things, and that was what player-manager Daron Durocher wanted to focus on as the team prepares to play again today.
“That was a good effort,” said Durocher. “We scored. We tied the game up. We were in a good position there, but they can hit and they are fast and they play the game.
“They are hungry, they wanted it. They hadn’t played a game in a month.”
Kuoppala’s return to the lineup gave his team another strong bat in the middle of the lineup and he delivered when called upon.
After seeing a pair of pitches to open his at bat in the fourth, Kuoppala tagged one over the fence in left center field for a solo shot.?Later in the game, he hit into a fielder’s choice, driving home what, at the time, was the tying run.
Kuoppala was happy to have had such an exciting moment, but also understood its impact on the game as a whole.
“You’d like to say that that hit sparked a lot of stuff, but really, in reality, it was one run,” said Kuoppala. “It takes a lot more than that when you are down three runs. One run is not going to do it.
“The biggest thing was just trying to get baserunners on and get them in. We struggled with that today.”
Stanton fell behind in the bottom of the first inning as Lane Holsworth walked to lead off. He would later score on Ken Pekanek’s triple. Bradley Gustafson then reached on an error, allowing Pekanek to score.
Gustafson scored on a passed ball to give Channing a 3-0 lead.
Stanton had trouble stringing things together until the fourth inning. Needing a spark, they turned to Kuoppala for his long solo shot, cutting the lead to two, 3-1.Channing continued to make life difficult for Stanton as Matt Wiitanen tripled to lead off the fourth. After Garth Budek walked, Wade Holsworth extended the Railroaders’ lead to 4-1 by sacrificing to bring Wiitanen home.
Looking to even things up, Stanton dug deep in the fifth. Josh Hibbard opened things up with a line drive to the left field fence for a double. Tyler LaDuron followed with a long single to left field. He would then steal second to put both runners in scoring position. Josh Koskela walked to load the bases.
After a pitching change, Eric Nettell hit a sacrifice fly, which brought Hibbard home.?Cole Jepsen then followed with a single that brought LaDuron home and made it a one-run game, 4-3.
Stanton was not finished, however. Kuoppala hit into a fielder’s choice, but he still managed to reach first. Koskela scored on the play to even the game.
After Stanton starting pitcher Trent Keteri forced the first two hitters into flyouts in the bottom of the fifth, mistakes caught up again. Hibbard attempted to come up with a third catch to end the inning with Gustafson at the plate, but instead, he lost control of the ball as he crashed to the turf. Luke Holsworth brough Gustafson home before scoring himself on a throwing error.
Stanton was held off the scoreboard in the top of the sixth and the Railroaders made them pay in the bottom half as they added two more runs.
Stanton will return to action today at 6:30 against Pat’s Foods/Mosquito Inn. Channing will play at 4:15 against Dean Kangas State Farm.