Rajala’s earns win over Copper Country Elks, 7-5

Eddie O’Neill/Daily Mining Gazette Rajala’s Kitchen’s Max Nordstrom delivers a pitch during a game against the Copper Country Elks Monday.

SOUTH RANGE — Timely hitting in the late innings was the key to victory as Rajala’s Kitchens was able to pull out to a 7-5 win against the Copper Country Elks in Portage Lake Little League Minors playoff action on Monday.

The game was a back-and-forth battle with the score tied twice. The No. 7-seeded Elks gave the No. 2-seeded Rajala’s squad a good run for their money up until the last out.

“It was a good baseball game, and the better team won,” said Elks manager Eli Matteson. “They were the better team all year.”

The runs started in the Elks’ favor first. Pierce Johnson started things off as he was hit by a pitch and landed on first. Levi Matteson got the first hit of the game with a single down the left field line off of Rajala’s starter Max Nordstrom.

The two of them would make it home on wild pitches before the third out.

In the bottom of the first, Rajala’s came back to tie thanks to hits by Nordstrom and Rylan Guilbault off of Hayden Matteson, who was on the mound for the Elks.

There was nothing shaking in the second as both sides went down swinging. Both pitchers threw well, putting the ball over the plate and not allowing a lot of walks.

In the bottom of the third, Rajala’s were able to string several hits together and put two more runs on the board. Blake Heltunen started the rally with a single through the left side of the infield. Brycyn Nettell followed with an RBI double up the middle. Two batters later, Guilbault got an RBI of his own with a two base hit to right center. After three innings, Rajala’s Kitchen led 4-2.

However, their lead did not last long as the Elks came back with two of their own in the top of the fourth. Trent Pietila kicked things off with a hard hit double to left field. He would come in on a wild pitch. Hayden Matteson scored in a similar fashion after he was hit by a pitch and eventually made his way across home plate on errors and wild pitches.

But the 4-4 tie did not last a half inning as Rajala’s tagged on two more runs in their bottom half. Jared Freeman doubled down the third base line and scored a few pitches later on a passed ball. Carter Wuori also scored after walking. Paige Nettell knocked him on a hard hit ball back to the pitcher. While she was thrown out at first, Wuori made the score 6-4 after four innings.

While the Elks got one more in the fifth off another Johnson single and a series of errors, it would not be enough. Rajala’s tagged another run in their bottom of the fifth and held off a threatening Elks lineup in the top of the sixth.

The Elks had bases loaded after two hit batsmen and a walk with two outs and Daniel Suh at the plate. The go-ahead run was a first base, but Suh could not connect and struck out on a high-hard fastball to end the game, 7-5.

Despite the loss, coach Matteson said the season has come an end on a definite high note.

“I am proud of my team,” he said. “Everyone has improved over the year. Our fielding got better; our hitting got better, and we had a lot of fun along the way.”

Rajala’s Kitchens will go on to play in the semifinals on Wednesday.

“It was an awesome game by both teams,” said manager Bruce Heltunen. “We were lucky to squeak that one out.”