State Farm regains form, beats Pat’s Foods

STANTON – After dropping four games in a row, Dean Kangas-State Farm is beginning to look more like the team that won the Twilight League playoffs last season and started 2016 strongly. State Farm stretched a four-run lead into an eight-run win Thursday night as they topped Pat’s Foods/Mosquito Inn, 10-2, at Stanton Field.

Owen Kariniemi pitched six strong innings for State Farm to earn the victory. He scattered three hits over those six innings as he kept Pat’s bats off balance with a mixture of his fastball and a deadly change-up.

“Owen pitched a great game,” said State Farm player-manager Brian Juopperi. “He was throwing strikes. He is our ace and he pitched a great game.

“It’s huge for the confidence of both us and him. We are going to need him going forward.”

Juopperi felt that his team’s defense also did a great job of helping Kariniemi out when called upon.

“It all starts with defense,” said Juopperi. “We are playing some good defense. It’s carrying over to the offense. We are hitting the ball.”

In a game that counted both as a regular season game and the opening game for both squads in the Leo Durocher Tournament, State Farm got on the board early as they were able to make Pat’s pitcher Justin Kirby work hard from the lead batter in the bottom of the first inning.

Brady Turner reached on an error. Dave Wesa hit into a fielder’s choice. Juopperi followed with a single to bring Turner home.

Kirby kept State Farm’s bats at bay until the third inning when Turner led off again.

Turner was hit by a pitch to lead off. Wesa then doubled to the left field corner, bringing Turner home. Juopperi hit into a fielder’s choice, moving Wesa to third. Kyle Storm singled to shallow center to bring Wesa home. T.J. Kilpela followed with a single of his own. Storm made it 4-0 when he scored after Morgan Impola hit into a fielder’s choice.

Injured Pat’s manager Rexx Janowiak felt Kirby deserved a better fate.

“Justin pitched well,” said Janowiak. “He threw a lot of strikes. They squared some up. he made some errors and they were able to put together some runs.”

Pat’s gave their pitcher some help in the top of the fourth. Brad Juntunen singled. Rob Brooks singled to deep center, scoring Juntunen. A wild pitch allowed Brooks to move to second. Chris Nielson bunted to move Brooks to third. Ross Kinnunen singled to score Brooks and cut State Farm’s lead to two.

Kirby again kept State Farm bats at bay until the fifth, when errors caught up with his teammates again.

Juopperi drew a walk. Storm reached on an error. Kilpela also reached on an error, scoring Juopperi on the play. A throw home to try and beat Juopperi was late. Pat’s catcher Jim Klapperich then tried to throw out Storm at third sailed past Kinnunen, allowing Storm to score.

In the bottom of the sixth, State Farm took advantage of more errors by Pat’s defenders to extend their lead to eight runs.

After a single to lead off, Kariniemi walked. Turner singled to load the bases. Wesa singled home a run.

A wild pitch allowed Kariniemi to score. Juopperi hit into a fielder’s choice. Both Turner and Wesa scored.

After Brooks replaced Kirby on the mound, Storm walked before Impola was thrown out and Jason Koski struck out to end the inning.

State Farm returns to action on Saturday when they face the winner of Channing and Stanton at 4:15 p.m. Pat’s will face the loser of that same game at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.