HANCOCK – After pitching a complete-game shutout over the Ishpeming Blue Storm, one play still irked Copper Country pitcher Brad Juntunen: the lone hit he surrendered – an infield single in the sixth.
“That was right up the middle. If I had played my position, I probably would have had that; it came right at me,” Juntunen said of the play that broke up his no-hit bid. “It just came up the middle and I missed it.”
It was a combination of Juntunen’s looping curveball and fastball that consistently threw the Ishpeming bats out of synch, as Juntunen struck out six, walked two and hit a batter in the Copper Country Flames’ 4-0 Legion win over Ishpeming Wednesday at the Hancock Driving Park.
Juntunen pitched 5 2/3 innings of no-hit baseball before Ishpeming’s Kevin Roberts recorded his team’s only hit.
“Biggest thing working for me was keeping them off balanced with different speeds to home plate,” he said. “I changed up my windup a lot, changed up my speeds to home to keep their timing off I found that throughout the years playing, that seems to work for me – especially when you throw the curveball at them.”
When runners did threaten, Juntunen employed a lethal pick-off maneuver, picking off Ishpeming’s Jared Kipling from third for the final out in the top of the first, while also getting Cederic Nora at third on the same move for the first out in the sixth.
“Getting caught on third base was actually my mistake,” Ishpeming head coach Matt Matwyuk said. “Those two were coaching errors on my part for not really paying attention. I take the blame on that one. My players should not be at fault for that.”
Offensively, the Flames were led by Al Nettell, Hans Stimac and Juntunen; Stimac scored twice on passed balls – in the first and third – after drawing a walk each time, and Nettell drove in Juntunen twice – once in the first and another time in the fifth – for two hits and two RBIs.
“First half the season we struggled with leaving guys in scoring position and not getting that big hit,” Copper Country head coach Ron Stimac said. “That’s starting to change now We’re finally starting to put the bat on the ball.”
Despite just four hits, the final tally may not be a proper indicator of how well the Flames struck the ball, as many line drives sailed right to Ishpeming defenders.
“That score could have been a lot different with how the guys hit the ball tonight,” Ron Stimac said. “The guys were hitting the ball right at people, and Ishpeming made fine plays defensively to keep us off the bases.”
For Ishpeming, Wyatt Bodette earned the start and pitched 2 2/3 innings, surrendering two earned runs on two hits and four walks while striking out two. Roberts came in for relief and pitched the final 3 1/3, allowing an earned run on two hits and a walk with one strikeout.
“We had very good pitching,” Matwyuk said. “Really, I thought we could have done better on our hitting, but they had a very good game defensively and their bats were just a little more active than our bats. That’s all.”
The two teams will take part in the Soo Wood Bat Tournament this weekend.