In a slugfest like the one Wednesday afternoon at Coral Seymour Memorial Ballpark, it figures that pitching will not have played a big role into deciding a winner.
An American Legion clash between the Post 20 Twins and Post 33 Chugiak Mustangs still came down to which relief pitcher would hold up, and Chugiak’s Brian Wing managed to squeeze out a victory for his team.
Wing pitched five innings of relief, taking over for Chugiak starter Ian Frizelle in the third to guide the Mustangs to a 12-9 league win over the Twins. Wing finished with eight strikeouts, one hit and just one run (unearned) in the closeout performance.
Chugiak head coach Steve Straub said his crew managed to hold it together when they needed it most.
“They mentally stayed in it,” Straub said. “Some of these other games (Chugiak has played) it was close in the end, and we’ve let them out-mentally focus us. They’ve beat us by just wanting it more.”
The Twins fell to 8-6 in league play, then lost the second, nonleague, game of the day 3-2 to drop to 12-12 overall. Chugiak improved to 8-7 in league play and 11-13 overall.
The Twins pulled starter Logan Smith with two outs in the fourth inning in favor of Harrison Metz, who failed to record an out before veteran Paul Steffensen was put in. Steffensen finished out the game with 4 1-3 innings of work, using his fastball and changeup to strike out two and give up three earned runs on five hits and two walks.
Post 20 coach Robb Quelland said Steffensen was an easy decision to put in after Post 20 was outscored 8-1 in the third and fourth innings combined.
“We know if it’s a close game, we can go to him,” Quelland said. “We know what he’s capable of throwing, he’s not going to overpower anybody by any means, but he keeps the ball in the strike zone and gets ground balls.”
Steffensen came up big from the plate, hitting 3 for 4 with a double, as well as a walk and three runs.
“I feel like if I can get on, I should be able to get to second at some point,” Steffensen said about his ability to swipe bases. “Just get on and hit the ball hard someplace. Good things happen when you hit the ball hard.”
Quelland said a bevy of infield errors hindered the Twins’ chances of winning, even after the local nine staked out a 5-0 lead after two innings. In total, the Twins racked up eight errors.
“We were exposed by our youth,” Quelland said. “The transition from players last year to our current roster, we saw today that some of these guys who were playing their position the first or second time, it really showed in their execution.”
After giving up the lead, the Twins twice came back to tie it up, first in the bottom of the fourth when Jeremy Kupferschmid scored on a passed ball by Wing with the bases loaded and no outs, then in the bottom of the seventh when Steffensen knotted it up at 9-all on a wild pitch by Wing.
Leadoff hitter Steffensen worked into a 3-2 count before taking a walk, then stole second. Cody Quelland sacrifice bunted Steffensen over to third, who then scored on a wild pitch.
However, in extra innings, Chugiak found the magic from the plate, starting with what ultimately became the game-winnign single by D.J. Davis on a grounder past third base that scored a run. The inning continued with an RBI single by Cameron Butler and a run scored by Butler, who took advantage of a throw to second to catch a runner.
“They found some open grass out there,” Steffensen said. “It happens.”
The biggest play in the early frames came on a bases-loaded, one out, situation with the Twins up 2-0 and Kupferschmid up to bat. Kupferschmid sent a single to the outfield that cleared the bases for a 5-0 lead, and Kupferschmid managed to advance to second on a throw to the plate.
However, Chugiak answered back in the top of the third when a grounder by D.J. Davis was mishandled by Twins shortstop Joe Ravin, resulting in Davis reaching base and two runs coming in.
After the Twins got back a run in the bottom of the frame, Chugiak announced their comeback with a six-run explosion at the top of the fourth, including a two-run error by third baseman Seth Adkins when Chugiak’s Sam Hall sent out a routine grounder with two outs.
It spelled the difference, as Frizelle notched an RBI single that tied it up at 6-all, and the go-ahead run came in on a balk by Twins pitcher Harrison Metz.
“We have the offense, we just haven’t been showing it lately,” Straub said. “Today it came through better than it has.”
Straub said Wing, a high school junior, has thrown long relief appearances before, so he knew his closer was up to a task reminiscent of a Madison Bumgarner October spectacle.
“I knew he could throw 120 (pitches) physically, as long as he wasn’t walking (batters),” Straub said. “I knew he could recover well in three or four days.”
With games against Wasilla, South Anchorage and Palmer on the upcoming schedule, Quelland said the Twins’ work is cut out for them.