FELCH - Make it three in a row for Fox Cities.
Behind tournament Most Valuable Player Justin Hallock and Most Valuable Pitcher Rick Cavaiani, Fox Cities captured its third consecutive U.P. Hardball Championship, defeating Appleton 7-0 in Monday's final of the 41st annual event.
Cavaiani, the son of former Iron Mountain residents Don and Candice Cavaiani, tossed a gem in the final, allowing just two hits while striking out six in the complete-game shutout.
Justin Hallock, left, and Rick Cavaiani of Fox Cities earned U.P. Hardball honors.
The game marked first live game action in about four years for the former U-W Milwaukee pitcher who resides in Appleton.
"It was a little nerve-racking at first, but I'm just glad I got through it," he said. "It's nice having run support to help me out there."
Cavaiani, 28, also benefitted from flawless defense, including a pair of double plays in the game.
Even though Cavaiani hadn't pitched in a game in four years, he said he had been training most of the summer for the tournament.
"I run a traveling baseball team in Appleton, so I've been throwing live to some of our 18-year old players to try to get back in shape," he said. "I am happy with the results."
Fox Cities took the lead in the top of the first, as Hallock knocked in John Hendrick who had doubled. Hendrick, last year's Most Valuable Pitcher, had to leave the game early to head back home to be with his expectant wife.
Meanwhile, Hallock went on to a 3-for-3 performance in the final, smacking a double and knocking in two runs.
He doubled in the third and came home with the game's second run when Jacob Husing, a Iron Mountain High School graduate, doubled deep to right field.
Hallock added a RBI hit in a four-run fourth. Chris Erm also had a RBI hit in the fourth, and two additional runs came in on a throwing error.
Hallock finished the tournament 11-for-16 with a home run and eight RBIs.
"It's fun," he said. "I'm just glad I was on a good team."
Hallock has been part of all three of the Fox Cities title teams, having played in the tournament since 2001.
"I've been coming up here for a long time," he said. "We have fun up here. It's not just the baseball tournament, it's the guys we bring up, the guys we see here. It's more of a family affair."
The camaraderie of the weekend also rubbed off on first-timer Cavaiani, who said he plans to return next year.
"I've heard about it for years," he said. "This is just awesome. We tented it out here. It's the best weekend I've had in years."
Fox Cities' four-run fourth was interrupted for about 10 minutes by a rain shower, but the game resumed and remained dry for the full seven innings.
Adam Husing, brother to Jacob and the new principal at Iron Mountain's Bishop Baraga Catholic School, bounced a long fly over the fence for a double in the top of the sixth and came around to score on a single by Nate Richter for Fox Cities final run of the game.
Fox Cities hitters beat an ex-major league player in earning the championship win. Appleton pitcher Tim Harikkala, 41, posted a 7-8 MLB record, pitching a total of 99.1 innings for Seattle, Boston, Oakland and Colorado.
Drafted by the Mariners in 1992, Harikkala last played in the majors in 2007 when he appeared in one game with the Rockies.
Fox Cities, which tries to bring back the same core group of players each year, expects to be back to defend its title again next Labor Day.
"We'll be trying to go back-to-back-to-back-to-back," Hallock said. "So we'll see."
Host Felch fell 6-2 to champion Fox Cities in its opening contest and 6-0 to eventual semifinalist Langsdorf. The eight-team tournament was played in double elimination format.
The weekend's other scores follow:
Game 1 - Greenville 11, Houghton 5
Game 2 - Appleton 8, Escanaba 2
Game 3 - Fox Cities 6, Felch 2
Game 4 - Fulton 4, Langsdorf 2
Game 5 - Greenville 5, Appleton 4
Game 6 - Houghton 7, Escanaba 0 (5 inn)
Game 7 - Langsdorf 6, Felch 0
Game 8 - Fox Cities 7, Fulton 4
Game 9 - Fulton 7, Houghton 5
Game 10 - Langsdorf 8, Greenville 0
Semifinal - Appleton 9, Fulton 1
Semifinal - Fox Cities 3, Langsdorf 1