Most local baseball fans remember Erik Pulkkinen as a silky smooth middle infielder.
However, since graduating from Paupack and moving on to the intercollegiate ranks, Pulkkinen has ev-olved into an intimidating mound presence.
On Thursday evening on the shores of The Big Lake, Erik put his pitching wares on display for all to see...much to the chagrin of the Hamlin Rangers.
Pulkkinen dominated this District 15 American Legion playoff contest, piling up 12 strikeouts en route to a 5-0 shut-out for Hawley Post 311 in Game One of this best-of-three series.
“Honestly, I really didn’t have my best stuff today,”?he told TWI Sports. “My fast- ball was pretty decent, but I?struggled with my breaking stuff. I just had to work my way through it.”
With this win, Pulkkinen and his Toros move one step closer to a berth in the finals. Game Two was slated for Friday night in Hamlin and a third game (if necessary) will be played Saturday in Hawley.
“I’m having a lot of fun playing with these guys this summer,”?Erik said. “We’re coming together as a team really well. Hopefully, we can keep it up all through the playoffs.”
As a result of this loss, the Rangers now face an elimination game. Hamlin is the #4 seed and sports an overall record of 7-9.
After the first two frames of Thursday’s contest, it appeared as though a good old-fashioned pitchers duel might be in the offing.
Since Pulkkinen couldn’t rein in his breaking pitches, he simply began overpowering Hamlin hitters with a blistering heater.
“I?throw a curve and I’m working on a change, too,”?Erik said. “But, I?just couldn’t locate them. It was kind of frustrating, so I just relied on my fastball.”
That proved to be a wise decision. Pulkkinen repeatedly climbed the ladder with high heat, enticing one batter after another to chase pitches out of the zone. The result was an even dozen strikeouts and just one basehit allowed, a single to Lucas Karnick.
Pulkkinen worked seven innings, threw 104 pitches, issued four free passes and hit two batters.
Meanwhile, the Post 311 offense would give Erik all the support he’d need in the bottom of the third. Manager Chad Goetz powered up the pressure, having his players steal and hit &?run at every turn.
Hawley tallied three runs in the third, then added a pair of insurance tallies in the home fourth.
Cameron Wolfson paced the attack, driving in two runs with an RBI?single and sacrifice fly.
Pulkkinen aided his own cause with one key basehit, two runs and an RBI. James Goetz worked a pair of free passes and tallied twice, while David Ortiz added an RBI.
Page 2 of 2 - Hamlin’s Nate Packer also pitched well on this day. The crafty southpaw worked three innings, then handed the ball off to relievers Bob Dyer (two innings)?and Kevin Karabin (one).
Kenny Ciszak also helped to ignite the Toros offense, ripping a single and stealing a base.
Defensively, Hawley was particularly solid up the middle. The Toros turned two inning-ending double plays to help kill of Hamlin mini-rallies.
Score by Innings...
HAM 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 - 0
HAW 0 0 3 0 2 0 x - 5