After 2 years of waiting, the Itä Länsi weekend finally took place in Pori. With the spreading of the coronavirus in 2020, the event was cancelled and rescheduled for Pori to host it in 2021. Again, in 2021 we have seen a great deal of uncertainty due to the pandemic, and the event was rescheduled from July to 5th and 6th August. Even then, events outside of the sport have not run smoothly, as the number of positive cases of coronavirus has increased in Finland, which meant that additional measures had to be taken by the event to reduce the number of fans in the stands, to allow for social distancing.
Despite all this, the event has been an incredible success in terms of the way in which Pori have organised things. The resilience and adaptive thinking that has been shown by those organising the event has meant that the annual show-stopper could finally go ahead.
After a long but pleasant journey through the stunning Finnish countryside, I was welcomed by the party atmosphere and the refreshments and stalls that had been set up. The sun was shining, with a moderate breeze towards the backfield line. The extended seating areas and netting made the field seem hemmed in and the chances of extra base hits and home runs even more difficult.
Women’s Itä v Länsi
In this year’s Itä v Länsi, the women’s game served as part of a double bill and placed the women’s game on an equal footing with the men’s. I follow many sports around the world and there is none that springs to mind where the men’s and women’s Allstar game is treated this way.
After East won the hutunkeitto and decided to bat first, a bouncing line drive to the right shortstop by Siri Eskola was enough to give Kirsi Ala-Lipasti a run. The West got off to a hot start in the bottom of the first, but it was through a handling error by the right shortstop that they managed to draw level. After a tense few innings, Susanna Puisto broke the deadlock for the West in the bottom of the 3rd inning, with Janette Lepistö put the jakso out of reach for the East with 2 more RBIs.
The second jakso remained a close run thing, with Lepistö bringing Henna Juka home in the 2nd inning making the difference. It wasn’t until the top of the 4th inning that the game became completely out of reach for the East, with Lepistö and Anni Laakso scoring the last 2 RBI to give them a 3 run lead.
Men’s Itä v Länsi
After a comfortable break between the 2 games, the men’s teams took to the field. The West won the hutunkeitto and decided to field first. The East didn’t take long to get going, opening the scoring in the 1st inning. Juha Puhtimäki used up 2 strikes with hits that were carried foul by the wind, before using a bouncing hit to bring home Elmeri Purmonen. In the bottom of the inning, the West were off to a flying start with runners on base and in scoring position. Perttu Ruuska’s deep hit to right field brought Lauri Vierimaa home to draw level. The ball seemed to be carrying beyond the outfield due to the swirling wind and lots of hitters struggled to hit a long ball that stayed in the field of play. In the top of the 2nd inning, Puhtimäki was stuck on 3rd base for what seemed like an eternity before being brought home to score off Patrik Wahlsten’s line drive.
With the East still leading the jakso by a single run, Puhtimäki extended their lead in the top of the 4th inning with a line drive to centre field, seeing Elmeri Purmonen score for the second time in the game. As the West came to bat at the bottom of the inning, the wind and rain got worse and the West struggled to find the rhythm they showed in the 1st inning; all of a sudden the jakso was over and East were in the driving seat.
In the second jakso a narrow call at home denied Timo Torppa his first run of the game, but moments later Juuso Myllyniemi made it home off Henri Puputti’s hit to break the deadlock and give East a 0-1 lead going into the bottom of the 2nd inning. As the West tried to come back into the game, Elmeri Lieto’s short hit was chased down by pitcher Puhtimäki and thrown to Iiro Kuosa, covering home base; but as Lauri Vierimaa slid home, Kuosa’s foot was inches short off home base and meant that the score was now tied. With the wind and rain getting stronger and the teams putting on solid defensive plays, the 3rd and 4th innings were scoreless and East picked up the win.
Whilst neither the Men’s nor the women’s games were high scoring, there were some very solid defensive plays, with the pitchers in the two games featuring heavily. Despite all of the obstacles that were thrown in Pori’s way, the event was fantastic and the facilities were great.