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Dean-Kangas State Farm makes adjustments to beat Negaunee 5-2, captures Leo Durocher Memorial title

Bryce Derouin/Daily Mining Gazette Dean Kangas-State Farm’s Kyle Storm, right, celebrates with Jason Koski, left, after Storm’s two-run home run Sunday against Negaunee in the championship of the Leo Durocher Memorial Tournament.

STANTON — The Negaunee Tri-City North Stars came into the Leo Durocher Memorial title game with scorching bats, having trounced Wolverine-Orbit 15-3 in the semifinals earlier in the afternoon Sunday. 

And against Dean Kangas-State Farm in the title game, it appeared more of the same when the North Starts started the top of the first with two runs off State Farm’s Jason Koski. But an adjustment from Koski held Negaunee in check the rest of the way, and State Farm’s Kyle Storm recorded three RBIs, including a two-run home run, to lead State Farm to a 5-2 victory over the North Stars Sunday in Stanton.

“After the first inning, me and my catcher, Scott Pietila, decided no more fastballs,” said Koski, who pitched all seven innings and allowed two runs on seven hits and one walk while striking out two. “They’re a good fastball-hitting team, so I started to throw a lot off off-speed stuff. Credit goes to Scott on that one. It was pretty clear something had to change (after that first inning) if we wanted to have a chance to win the game.”

While Koski and Pietila discussed strategy after the first half inning, Storm provided the offensive equalizer with his no-doubt, two-run homer over the right field fence to score Jay Daavettila.

“I sat fastball, and (Negaunee pitcher Preston Hutchens) threw a couple balls to start, but the next one was there and I was lucky enough to get the barrel of the bat on it,” Storm said. “I knew it had a chance (to get over the fence) when I hit it in the sweet spot. I was lucky enough to get it over.”

State Farm scored the go-ahead run when Travis Wesa tallied an RBI single to score Brian Juopperi for a 3-2 advantage in the first inning.

Of the 10 hits State Farm had off Hutchens, who threw his second complete game in as many days and struck out three and walked one, five came in the three-run first inning.

“After they scored two in the first inning, we said, ‘We gotta hit,'” Juopperi said. “We definitely hit in that first inning and it carried from there.”

Following Negaunee’s first-inning scoring outburst, with a RBI double from Spencer Larson and a RBI from Steve Hintsala, the North Stars managed to get a runner in scoring position in every inning except the top of the seventh. But each time, they failed to convert, including the third and fifth innings when they stranded a runner on third.

“Just some baseball things happened where we hit the ball right to somebody and ran into a hot team,” Negaunee player-coach James Larsen II said. “There’s not much margin of error when you get to a championship game.”

While there were plenty of missed opportunities for Negaunee, the one that might hurt the most came in the sixth inning with no outs and C.J. Lepisto on second. Trailing 4-2, Negaunee’s Brad Jalonen ripped a liner back to the mound, only to see Koski snag the line drive and toss over to second to double up Lepisto, who was already making his way to third.

“I was very proud of our defense this weekend,” Juopperi said. “We did a good job of limiting the errors this entire weekend.”

State Farm’s Matt Helminen scored the team’s fourth run in the fifth inning on a solo home run to left field. Storm added one final insurance run in the sixth inning on his third RBI to score Brady Turner from first.

To advance to the championship game, State Farm topped REL Inc.-Mohawk Technologies 10-2 Sunday morning.

TURNER NAMED MVP

Turner was named the Tournament MVP, thanks in large part to his pitching performance in his team’s 5-4 win over Wolverine-Orbit. Turner pitched all 10 innings in his team’s win on Saturday, and admitted the outing left him sore for Sunday’s title game.

“I felt like I got stronger as the game went on. I was a little wild at the start,” Turner said. “I felt like I had a little more control as it went on. My curveball started working.”

SNB-STANTON DOESN’T WIN A GAME

Out of the four local teams, Superior National-Bank Stanton entered with the best record (6-1). But the Twilight League leaders had no such success over the weekend, dropping a 6-5 decision to REL Inc.-Mohawk Technologies on Friday, and fell 5-4 to Negaunee on Saturday.

Wolverine-Orbit defeated the Channing Railroaders 3-2 in nine innings Saturday in its other matchup before losing to Negaunee in the semifinals.

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