Surprise: Garnet Garage takes series opener from REL Inc., 4-2

Eddie O’Neill/Daily Mining Gazette REL Inc.-Mohawk Technology’s Tyler Loukus makes a routine play during a game against Garnet Garage Tuesday in Hancock. The game, which was the opener of the Copper Country Twilight League playoffs, was won by Garnet, 4-2.

HANCOCK —

As the lowest seed (No. 4) in this week’s Copper Country Twilight League playoffs, Garnet Garage knew they had their work cut out for them as they would face the No. 1-seeded REL Inc.-Mohawk Technology in the best-of-three playoff series.

Their manager, Joe Romano, reminded them of all that before Tuesday’s game, and the new kids on the block stepped up to the plate and delivered a 4-2 victory in the opener at the Hancock Driving Park.

“We played a game we needed to play,” said Romano. “Despite what the record book states, I know these kids can play and they did. They played perfect defense and hit the ball well.”

They did it behind the pitching of Chris Saari. The veteran right hander threw a complete game with eight strikeouts and three walks. Most importantly, he threw strikes consistently that led to outs.

“Chris is a smart pitcher,” said Romano. “He had command of his game and trusted the seven guys behind him.”

Eddie O’Neill/Daily Mining Gazette Garnet Garage pitcher Chris Saari readies to deliver a pitch during a game against REL Inc.-Mohawk Technology Tuesday in Hancock.

Garnet Garage’s big inning was the top of the second where they scored three runs off of REL’s starter Alan Jurmu. Second baseman Luke Kissell starting the rally off with a walk. He came in on a Saari double. Saari advanced on a error by REL’s first baseman Brent Loukus on a ball hit by Jordan Reynolds and touched home on a Justin Norkol single to left. Reynolds came in on a Will Romano shot to center before their catcher Carter Crouch struck out to end the rally.

In the third, REL got their first run of the game thanks to lead-off singles by centerfielder Travis Pietila and second baseman Grant Johnson. Pietila advanced to third on a sacrifice fly hit by Sam Kariniemi and came home minutes later on a wild pitch.

As the game progressed, REL had a number of opportunities for runs but left them stranded on base. For instance, Jurmu had a one-out double in the fourth but could not get home.

In the fifth, REL got their only other run when shortstop Rory Anderson ripped a triple to deep left field. Third baseman Brian Halonen knocked him home with a line drive to center, but the rest of the lineup could not follow through to bring the Huskies’ hockey player in.

“We had guys in scoring position almost every inning and we couldn’t string hits together,” said REL’s player-manager Tyler Loukus. “You can’t win games like that. Also errors in the second inning certainly did not help our cause.”

These two teams will face each other in Game Two on Thursday at 6:30 in Stanton.

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