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Champions: Dean Kangas earns playoff title with win over REL, 4-3

Eddie O’Neill/Daily Mining Gazette Members of the Dean Kangas-State Farm pose after winning the Copper County Twilight League playoff title Thursday in Hancock

HANCOCK – All Dean Kangas-State Farm needed was one inning to win Game Two and the championship trophy in the Copper Country Twilight League playoffs on Thursday night at the Hancock Driving Park. The home team wasted no time and got their work done in the first inning as they scored their four and only runs of the game to beat REL Inc.-Mohawk Technology, 4-3. Interestingly, their victory was a come-from-behind win as REL scored their three and only tallies just a half inning before them.

“It was a good team effort. Everybody stepped up for us,” said Dean Kangas player-manager Brian Juopperi. “We had some consistent pitching and some clutch hits that won it for us.”

Their biggest clutch hit came with two men on in the first and center fielder Dave Wesa at the plate in the bottom of the first. Wesa smacked a Sam Kariniemi fastball to left center for a triple and later came home on an errant throw to third. With the bases cleared, third baseman Jason Koski kept things rolling as he slugged a double up the middle. A batter later, shortstop Brandon Teichman brought him in on a single for run.

“Timely hitting had been our nemesis during the regular season,” said Juopperi, “but a base-clearing hit here and there throughout these series were key for us and made up for what we were lacking in the regular season.”

In the top of the first, REL’s third baseman Brian Halonen did the big hitting for his squad. After three walks issued by Dean Kangas starter Brady Turner, Halonen launched a three-run RBI double to right center to give the visitors their only runs of the game.

Eddie O’Neill/Daily Mining Gazette Dean Kangas-State Farm pitcher Brady Turner delivers a pitch during a game against REL Inc.-Mohawk Technology Thursday in Hancock.

Juopperi credited strong play in the field as another key in Thursday night’s big win as they were able to keep REL scoreless for the rest of the game.

“Sam was consistent with his pitching, (but) we were able to make the plays as they came to us,” he said.

With the win, Dean Kangas completed an impressive post-season with a perfect record. The No. 3-seeded team swept the No. 2 -seeded Superior National Bank-Stanton last week in two games and did the same this week with the first place REL. It took them just four games to win it all.

For his clutch performance in front of the plate, and his strong defense behind it, Dean Kangas’s catcher Scott Pietila was named the Twilight League postseason MVP.

“Scotty deserved it,” said Juopperi. “He had some big hits for us against Stanton, including a walk-off hit. And then on Tuesday he had a couple of put outs at the plate.”

Despite the loss, REL’s player-manager Tyler Loukus was pleased with the season.

“It was a great summer all in all,” he said. “Tonight, we had tough first inning and we never bounced back from that, but overall it was a fun season.”