Jacob and Davey Belger’s family waited a long time to watch the two play baseball this year.
Their wait was rewarded Tuesday at the Kenai Little League fields.
Jacob, who will be a junior at Soldotna High School, singled to score Davey, a 2020 SoHi graduate, with the winning run in Alaska 20’s 10-9 Alliance Baseball League victory. Davey also was the winning pitcher in the game.
“It was really nice,” Jacob said after finishing 2 for 5 with two runs and an RBI. “It was the first time my parents could both see a game.”
The two brothers didn’t get to play any baseball for SoHi this season after all spring sports were canceled by the new coronavirus. Then in the first week of May, American Legion also canceled any in-state operations for teams.
The Alliance for Support of American Legion Baseball, a nonprofit not tied to American Legion, stepped up and organized a league for players ages 13 to 19.
Alaska 20, as the former American Legion Twins are called, played its first six games on the road. Jacob Belger said his mother was able to attend some of those, but his father couldn’t.
Tuesday, Belger’s father got to attend. As an added bonus, Belger’s grandparents are up from the Lower 48 and also will get to watch when Alaska 20 takes on Wasilla today in a 12:30 p.m. doubleheader at the Kenai Little League fields.
Alaska 20 is now 1-0 in league play and 2-6 overall, while Service is 0-1 and 3-6 overall after bouncing back to top the Twins 16-5 in the nonleague second half of Tuesday’s doubleheader.
Tuesday’s league contest started under sunny skies for the baseball fans in attendance. For Kenai Peninsula baseball fans, it was the first chance to catch live baseball after the Peninsula Oilers canceled their 2020 season and area Little Leagues are pointing toward a fall season.
There also was a nice crowd on hand from Service. Service coach Willie Paul said the trip to Kenai is the only one longer than an hour for his club. Rather than deal with the coronavirus complications that could occur on such a trip, Paul required that parents take the players to the game.
The only other minor complications fans had was signing in with contact information for the game and spritzing hands with hand sanitizer, as required by the city of Kenai for the use of the field.
Alaska 20 went up 1-0 in the first inning, but Service took a 3-1 lead in the top of the third. In the bottom of the frame, Sam Berry popped a two-run homer to right field to tie the game.
Berry came in to pitch in the fourth and struggled with his control, then Davey Belger entered and also got off to a rough start as Service led 9-2 after the top of the fifth inning.
Meanwhile, clouds had rolled in during the fourth inning and a steady rain was falling in the fifth inning.
“Davey struggled at the start, but he didn’t let it get to him,” Twins assistant coach Cody Quelland said. “He kept going and ended up getting the win.”
Jacob Belger said the Twins would have given up facing a 9-2 deficit even just a week ago. Now, he said, the team has bonded and the dugout believed a comeback was possible, even in the rain.
“The bench players were a huge help,” Jacob said. “They were talking to us and keeping us going.”
The Twins began to eat into the lead as Service relievers Jake Rafferty and Kyle Andrew struggled with control, walking eight in 2 2/3 innings.
Davey Belger shut Service out in the sixth and seventh innings as Alaska 20 scored two in the fifth and four in the sixth to tie the game at 9.
Paul said his squad is young and suffering from a lack of practice time. Including high school, he said his team would have 30-plus practices by now, but had fewer than 10 before the season started and now has fewer than 15.
“We had four eighth-graders play today,” he said.
With the skies cleared and two out in the bottom of the seventh in the seven-inning game, Davey Belger walked and moved to second on a wild pitch. Jacob then completed the walkoff with a bloop single to right.
“I was trying to hit it on the ground to the right side, but I got it in the air and it just fell in,” he said.
Then came another effect of the coronavirus. The Twins had been famous over the years for the nice meals they gave visiting teams between games. That won’t happen this season.
“They always make a fantastic meal between games,” Paul said. “We appreciate that they’ve done that for us over the years.”