Ticket punched: Wolverine-Orbit earns spot in championship series with 9-5 win

Eddie O’Neill/Daily Mining Gazette Wolverine-Orbit’s Hans Stimac delivers a pitch against Dean Kangas State Farm during a playoff game Wednesday at the Hancock Driving Park. Wolverine won the game, 9-5, clinching the semifinal series.

HANCOCK — Wolverine-Orbit was hot and Dean Kangas State Farm was not in Game Two of the best-of-three playoff series in the Copper Country Twilight League at the Hancock Driving Park Wednesday night.

Scoring in bunches, Wolverine won 9-5 and will advance to the championship series against the winner of the Superior National Bank-Stanton and REL Inc.-Mohawk Technologies series.

For the most part, the matchup mirrored the game played the night before. Both games included strong pitching, lots of hitting and consistent fielding. However, State Farm’s player-manager Brian Juopperi stuck to a typical sports cliche to describe the game.

“It was a little too late for us,” he said.

Interestingly Game Two didn’t start that way. State Farm came out swinging. Starting pitcher Dave Wesa kicked things off with a double in the top of the first and came in on a Brady Turner single. After the quick start, however, that was all they could muster off of Wolverine pitcher Hans Stimic for the next three innings.

Meanwhile, Wolverine’s bats got hot in the top of the third when they were given life by a timely mistake defensively by State Farm. With the inning extending, the visitor took advantage, scoring four runs, including a three-run homer to right field courtesy of Luke Paul.

“It felt good coming of the bat,” said Paul. “It was in the right spot.”

Paul knocked in Josh Gregory and Mike Saari. Gregory rattled State Farm’s cage somewhat after reaching first on a walk. The speedster ventured a little too far off first and was then nearly picked off by Wesa. Caught in a run down, Gregory made it back to first due to State Farm’s failure to back each other up. Tension mounted on the infield.

In the fourth, State Farm put another tally on the board with base hits by Kyle Storm, Morgan Impala and Jason Koski.

In the fifth inning, Wolverine closed the door on State Farm as they added another five runs with strong-hit line drives by Gregory, Darren Bausano and Mike Saari. Saari went 3-for-4 for the game. Stepping to the plate with bases loaded, Zach Hill cleared them all with double to center. Wesa was pulled from the mound and replaced by Carson Turner.

Stimic pitched a complete game for Wolverine allowing only two walks and striking out three. As well, he retired the State Farm squad 1-2-3 in both the third and fifth innings.

“It was an okay season,” noted Juopperi. “This is our first losing season in a long, long time.”

The team ended the regular season at 6-8.

He added that around 10 members of State Farm’s lineup has been playing together for 10 years or so with another group of younger players have been on the squad for five.

“Errors hurt us this year and we just left too many men on base. We couldn’t find the holes and gaps when we had scoring opportunities.”

Such is baseball. The Twilight League Championship Series will begin next Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. with the location yet to be determined.

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