All square: REL bounces back to force third and deciding game

Eddie O’Neill/Daily Mining Gazette REL Inc.-Mohawk Technology’s Grant Johnson stretches to deliver a pitch during a game against Garnet Garage Thursday in Stanton.

STANTON — With just six outs to go, things did not look good for REL. Inc.-Mohawk Technology. They were down 6-2 to Garnet Garage in the Game 2 of the best-of-three Copper Country Twilight League playoff action at Stanton Field. REL, the No. 1 seed, had lost the first game and were on the verge of being swept when suddenly their bats came alive.

Travis Pietila started it off with a bunt single. Starting pitcher Grant Johnson joined him on the base paths after he was hit by a pitch. Shortstop Rory Anderson with an RBI rip up the middle.

Relief pitcher Sam Kariniemi followed with a double down the left field line that brought in two runs. Brian Halonen followed him with a double of his own and when their half of the sixth inning was over, REL found themselves ahead, 7-6.

“I was a little nervous there in the late innings,” said REL’s player-manager Tyler Loukus. “We started off hitting the ball well, but we didn’t really have much contact after that until that sixth inning.”

They hit the ball equally well in the seventh inning as they knocked in five more runs to win 12-8 and keep their playoff run alive.

Eddie O’Neill/Daily Mining Gazette REL Inc.-Mohawk Technology’s catcher Tyler Loukus looks to throw out a runner during a game against Garnet Garage Thursday in Stanton.

While REL came out swinging and put up two runs in the first inning, the game’s momentum turned in Garnet’s favor as they took a 4-2 lead after the third behind the steady pitching of Carter Crouch.

Outfielder Eliot Magilessi started that inning with a walk from Johnson. Shortstop Justin Norkol knocked him in with a double. Left fielder Will Romano then walked and came in on a Crouch single. First baseman Lucas Kissell then did his part with a single and Garnet then led by two.

In the fourth, Garnet tacked on two more security runs. It started with a walk to Kissell and Magilessi was hit by a pitch.

At that point, REL shook things up with a pitching change as Kariniemi relieved Johnson. The first batter he faced was Norkol, who got a base hit to load the bases with no one out. Crouch walked to bring in one run and, two batters later, Kissel walked to bring in the second run and make the score 6-2 in favor of the No. 4-seeded Garnet Garage.

The game was theirs to win, but the REL bats caught up with Crouch as the line up faced him for the third and fourth times in the sixth and seventh innings.

“We came around and hit the ball well though when it counted,” said Loukus. “And we had good pitching as Sam (Kariniemi) came in and shut them down.”

Game 3 is slated for 10:30 a.m. on Saturday at the Driving Park in Hancock.