Earlier this year I singled IPV out on my blog and wrote an article about their 2020 regular-season. In particular, how high expectations and a powerful lineup failed to deliver. The loss of some key players such as Jussila, Partanen and Lattu for 2021 looked like this season would be less successful for IPV. However my final words on the matter were:
For 2021 IPV have a chance to reset and start again in their quest for a playoff spot. Only time will tell if this will happen, but if IPV get a lucky bounce here or their, take points in games that looked like they would score none, they might just make it.
Now that the regular season is over, I thought I would take a look back at IPV’s season and answer the question- how did IPV turn a season where they lost more games than they won into their best season since 1994?
The Halli-SM tournament was completely cancelled this year and any pre-season games were arranged between the teams. IPV played several games against Superpesis teams, including Hamina and SiiPe, but the results were not convincing. The number of journalists and fans predicting a playoff spot for IPV could be counted on the fingers of one hand…
The race for a top 8 spot was harder this year than it had been for a long time:
- Manse had changed their team almost entirely from their Ykköspesis days, signing an Allstar lineup that guaranteed them a top 8 finish before a game was even played;
- Kempele had made huge strides forward in 2020 and their off-season signings had launched them into the discussion for the top 8;
- 2021 saw 15 teams in Superpesis, so more teams would finish outside the top 8 than previous years;
- The delayed start to the season meant that the schedule was condensed and any injuries could completely disrupt a team’s chances;
The season started with a run of sting results, taking maximum points from their opening 2 games against Koskenkorva and Hyvinkää. But things started to get tougher and IPV started to slip down the table until the end of June. The season then was completely turned upside down as a positive covid case meant the team had to self isolate and their next 5 games were cancelled. The season then would be decided on points per game basis and all of a sudden IPV found themselves in a strong position to stay in the top 8.
August became tough month and gradually IPV slumped towards the lower half of the table. Some key results in the last days of the season (including 2 points against JoMa on the final day) saw them claim 7th in the table and make their first playoff appearance since 1994.
Manse wasted no time in choosing their first round opponents – the only team with a losing record in the top 8, IPV. Even though PattU finished in 8th place, IPV seemed like the logical choice for an easy win… how wrong they were.
IPV started the series with 2 straight wins against the league leaders in a series of performances that had stunned the pesäpallo world and brought the magic of the postseason back to the game. Tommi Piirainen, Juho Toivola and Konsta Hyötyläinen all led the team in offence, but the pitching of Rasmus Surakka guided them to victory. Even when Manse put up big numbers, IPV managed to put that out of their mind and focus on the next inning or the next jakso. IPV never gave up, never treated the game as over and gave it their best.
Despite the overwhelming response from Manse and their eventual defeat, IPV were the team everyone has been talking about (and will be talking about for some time). There is a certain magic about the “underdog” succeeding and Pesis has not seen a story like this for quite some time.
In perhaps a complete reversal of their 2020 campaign, IPV have turned tight games into wins and found a way to draw strength from their players despite losing all-star names like Jussila, Partanen and Lattu.
The main reason that IPV made it to the post-season this year is that they had the key thing that they were missing in 2020 – the ability to take their chances and not let games get away from them. IPV had no expectations or no pressure this year, other than the goals they set themselves.
As I mentioned in my blog earlier in the year, the young players needed to step into the gaps left by the departing Jussila, Partanen and Lattu. What I didn’t expect, but was delighted to see, was the rise of Rasmus Surakka as pitcher. In my blog I commented on Surakka’s decent games against tough opponents in 2020, so his rise was not entirely unexpected… never the less, he has certainly lifted the team to a level where they can keep calm when defending/fielding despite any setbacks.
I joked on Twitter recently that “IPV’s season has been the feel-good movie for the summer that hasn’t yet been made”. The fact that they have won 2 games against league leaders Manse PP, shows how much belief the team has and how they have not let the series slip away from them despite Manse scoring big in both games. Despite their strong start in the series, IPV were humbled in game 5 with the full power of Manse’s offence and their season was over. IPV’s 2021 season will not be remembered for their defeats however, but rather it will be immortalised as “the year that IPV won 2 games straight against all-star opponents Manse and dared to dream of a place in the finals”.
If some Hollywood producer does want to turn IPV’s season into the next sporting blockbuster, I am sure I can find the time to write the screenplay…