Back on track

WOLVERINE – No lineup adjustments, no motivating pep talks and no positional changes. Despite Wolverine-Orbit riding a two-game losing streak – its first adversity of the season – the first-place team in the Twilight League didn’t panic in the wake of its recent struggles.

“We didn’t make too many adjustments. We kind of just know we have a good team, so we go with what we got and it usually works,” Wolverine-Orbit player-coach Luke Paul said.

It worked Thursday, as Wolverine-Orbit defeated the Copper Country Miners 7-2 in an opening round contest of the Leo Durocher Tournament at Wolverine Field. Wolverine-Orbit is the defending champions of the tournament.

“Winning the Durocher is always a nice little add-on to the league,” Paul said. “Since we won last year, we’re looking to keep our reign.”

Thursday’s contest also served as a Twilight League make-up game. The win puts Wolverine-Orbit in a tie for first with Superior National Bank-Stanton at 8-3.

Coy Budweg earned the win on the mound; he pitched all seven innings, allowed two runs on seven hits and three walks, while striking out six.

“Fastball was here and there and that’s my No. 1 pitch. Later on in the evening, I tried to change it up with the off-speed,” Budweg said. “My slider was working pretty well and I threw my circle change here and there.

“I just tried keeping them off-balanced and it worked for the most part. The defense made huge plays when it came down to it.”

The clutch defense Budweg is referring to occurred in the second, third and fifth innings, where the Wolverine-Orbit defense worked out of multiple jams as the Miners stranded runners on second and third to close each inning.

“That’s been one of the things we talked about, right from the beginning: trying to catch up to the pitching at this level,” Copper Country head coach Jim Cortright said. “We’re just not there yet. We have to get better at hitting. That’s been our downfall at this point.”

Wolverine-Orbit never trailed, jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first after Beau Dupuis scored from first on a Copper Country throwing error after Mike Saari laid down a bunt. Saari would later score on a passed ball, and Paul scored his team’s final run of the inning when Lucas Lahnala forced a throw to second, allowing Paul to steal home from third.

Wolverine-Orbit built a comfortable lead in the fifth, as Saari’s sacrifice fly scored Devin Kero from third and later, Lahnala stole second and would eventually make his way to home after the ball found its way into the Wolverine-Orbit dugout following a throwing error, allowing Lahnala to give his team a 7-2 lead.

The winners finished with six hits, while Danny Hill (walk) and Lahnala (hit by pitch) each recorded RBIs with the bases loaded. Wolverine-Orbit drew nine walks, with Dupuis, Lahnala and Alex VanWagner each drawing two free passes.

“We always seem to get too high-strung and look for pitches to hit right away, but if you sit back and wait for the right pitches to hit, it usually turns out better for us,” Paul said. “and I think that’s what we did. We were a little more patient and looked for the right pitches.”

For the Miners, Gabe Rupright and Bryce Turner each recorded two hits, while Dustin Powell and Tanner Givens each had an RBI. Carson Turner started on the mound and went 3 2/3 innings, allowing four earned runs on four hits and seven walks, along with one strikeout; Reid Pietila pitched the final 2 2/3 and surrendered one earned run on two hits and two walks; he struck out two.

Up next, Wolverine-Orbit stays in the winner’s bracket and will play at Saturday at 2 p.m. in Stanton; they will face the victor between Finlandia University Alumni and the Negaunee Tri-City North Stars. The Miners play in the loser’s bracket at 11:45 in Stanton and face the loser of the aforementioned Finlandia-Negaunee matchup.

“We got Bryce Turner pitching for us on Saturday with Darren Nordstrom behind the plate,” Cortright said. “I’m really confident with that team right there alone Don’t count us out.”