Blue Storm splits doubleheader in Hancock

HANCOCK – For a while, it seemed like the only good feeling the Hancock Post 186 American Legion baseball team might get out of Sunday’s doubleheader was that derived from Brad Juntunen’s solo bomb to lead off game two.

But after a big rally in a wild game on a beautiful afternoon at Hancock Driving Park, there was lots for the hosts to go home happy about.

Hancock rallied from a 10-2 deficit after 2 1/2 innings to beat visiting Ishpeming, 15-14. The Blue Storm rolled to an 11-0 victory in game one.

“It’s a lot of fun. We fought really hard, we never gave up. We had some shaky spots, but we pushed through it. It was early in the game and we came out on top,” Juntunen said.

Juntunen crushing a high hard one from Ishpeming’s Connor Hanlon off the windshield of a Mercury parked beyond the left-field wall turned some heads, but his escape from a rundown in the third may have turned around his team’s fortunes.

He led off the third with an infield hit, but appeared picked off. After an extended play between first and second, he got his place back when Hanlon lost control of the ball while applying the tag. Dax Durocher followed with an RBI double to make it 10-3. Four hits and a handful of errors later, Hancock had closed to within 10-9.

“To come back after that type of deficit and turn it around was a tremendous effort, showed a lot of character from these kids,” Hancock manager Ron Stimac said.

Ishpeming, which scored twice in the first and third innings and six times in the second on three hits and at least four Hancock errors, could not be easily tamed. The visitors scored two more

runs in the fourth on a Jaren Kipling RBI single and a Derek Mahoski sacrifice fly.

After the first (and only) 1-2-3 inning of the game in the top of the fifth, Hancock finally pulled ahead in the bottom half. With one in and two out in a one-run game, Dax Durocher clubbed a two-run homer in the same direction as Juntunen’s shot to give Hancock a lead.

It didn’t last long. Halen Carello’s infield hit drove in the tying run and he came around to score on a wild pitch.

Hancock took the lead for good in the sixth. After Hanlon hit the first two batters, Gabe Rupright’s sac fly tied the game and the next batter, Justin Ruotsala, doubled to the left-field fence to score the decisive run.

Ishpeming could muster no counterattack, as its only baserunner came on a two-out walk before Luke Kulju flew out to end it.

“Second game, we didn’t make our plays,” Ishpeming manager Ryan Mahoski said. “We just had the one inning where we just kind of broke down defensively. Lot of errors there.”

The comeback made a winner out of Ruotsala, who went the distance on the mound despite the extremely rocky beginning.

“A couple breaks go our way in those couple early innings and I think that scoring differentiation probably wouldn’t have happened. But he settled down, got into a groove and kept kids off-balance,” Stimac said.

Ruotsala fanned seven and walked two. Ishpeming had 14 hits, with Kulju recording three. Tyrus Millimaki, Noah Olgren and Marcus Antilla had two apiece, with both of Antilla’s doubles.

Hancock had 12 hits, with Ruotsala having three and Juntunen, Durocher, Carter Puuri and Christian Cortright recording two apiece. Hanlon also pitched a complete game. He struck out five and walked one.

“Once they got back in the game, I think they got their confidence back and no matter what happened they didn’t seem to let it get to them,” Stimac said.

In the opener, the physically imposing Ozzy Corp was statistically dominant, holding Hancock to two hits.

Corp pitched out of early trouble, stranding a pair of first-inning baserunners that reached on an error and a walk by marking back-to-back strikeouts and an infield popup.

Hancock had only one other baserunner until the fifth, by which point Ishpeming was well ahead.

The Blue Storm took advantage of Hancock wildness to score three runs in the first. They added one in the second, then broke the game open with seven in the fifth to trigger the mercy rule.

Antilla went 3-for-4 to lead the winners. Hancock’s only hits came from Hans Stimac and Brad Ward in the top of the fifth. Corp fanned six and walked two.