DOLLAR BAY - Sure, having Ray Wojtala back in the fold has helped BlueSky Health's pitching, but he's not the only reason the Dollar Bay squad is almost alone for good atop the Twilight League.
Wojtala threw a complete-game two-hit shutout as BlueSky defeated Wolverine-Orbit 3-0 and guaranteed itself at least a share of the regular season championship.
BlueSky started the season 2-4 and has since won eight games in a row.
BlueSky Health’s Brent Jurmu takes off from third base, which he dislodged while sliding, as Wolverine-Orbit third baseman Wes Williams chases down the errant throw during their game Thursday in Dollar Bay. BlueSky won 3-0. (DMG photo by Brandon Veale)
"Really, it was just solid defense. There was a lot of ground ball outs and I don't think we made any errors in the field. Scotty Wesa, he played a heck of a game at second base, that was unreal," Wojtala said.
Wojtala, a former Michigan Tech quarterback, returned for the summer from graduate school in Poland. He wasn't just being modest about his role. Wolverine made contact for much of the night but was consistently handled, making for a tidy win that took less than an hour and 20 minutes to complete.
"Our defense is coming along very well, and I think that's one of the keys to our team now," BlueSky's Brian Juopperi said.
BlueSky scratched out its first run of the game when Kyle Storm worked a lead-off walk and scored on Wojtala's two-out RBI single.
Brent Jurmu doubled the lead with aggressive baserunning to start the third. After a lead-off single, he was sacrificed to second. On a grounder to the left side of the infield, Jurmu took off for third when the ball was thrown toward first. The relay was thrown too high to handle at third base and Jurmu scored while Wolverine chased the ball down.
"We just told the guys to be patient, just to get the bat on the ball and have them try to make plays," Juopperi said.
Wolverine's only hits came from Mike Saari in the second and Ian Wienke in the seventh, both singles.
"I just tried to keep them a little off-balance with the curve and fastball and that was really it, just try and let them hit ground balls," Wojtala said.
The hosts added an insurance run in the fourth as Storm walked and scored on a wild pitch.
Luke Paul took the loss for Wolverine despite allowing only three hits and three walks in six innings. He struck out four.
Wolverine falls back into a second-place tie with Stanton in the Twilight League standings at 7-6.
BlueSky can clinch the regular season title with a win in either of its last two games next week (vs. Mosquito Inn-Toivola Tuesday or at Stanton Thursday) or if Stanton and Wolverine lose any of their last three games.
The battle in the middle of the standings remains vital. The two seed will host a playoff series, but at least the three seed avoids the newly-created play-in game between the fourth- and fifth-place teams scheduled for Aug. 7.
BlueSky probably won't have to worry about any of those things.
"We're locking down defensively, cutting back on the errors and in this league, that's everything. If you don't make errors and make the routine plays, more times than not you'll get a win as long as you make the routine plays in this league," Wojtala said.