After eight innings of what was scheduled to be a seven-inning affair, the Legion AA Twins walked off the field at Coral Seymour Memorial Park with defeat in hand but victory in mind.
Playing Post 33 Chugiak for the second time in eight days, the Twins fell in a 6-3 loss Saturday under cloudy skies, but not before pushing the newly crowned high school state champions to an extra inning.
The Mustangs also extended their unbeaten league record to 8-0.
“We’ve had the state championship thing on us, and now we have the undefeated thing on us,” said Chugiak assistant coach Steve Straub. “It’s kind of a weight in that sense.”
Just weeks after winning the high school state title, a mix of different players meshed into the Legion team, which Straub said is now beginning to jell together.
The Mustangs finished the day with a doubleheader sweep, taking the second, nonleague, game 10-5. The Twins drop to 2-5 in the league and 6-6 overall with the pair of losses.
When asked what doomed the Twins in the opening contest, Post 20 coach Gary Oliver — who has taken charge of the team with Robb Quelland and Lance Coz after the departure of Hector Rivera — summed it up in two words.
“Missed opportunities,” Oliver said. “We had our chance there in the bottom of the seventh, we could’ve put it away. We had a runner at third and all we needed was a fly ball.”
Chugiak took a 2-0 lead in the third inning with a run by Jack Straub on a wild pitch by Joey Becher, and a ground-out by Zach Bohrer that scored leadoff hitter Vander Lekites.
In the bottom of the inning, a two-out single to center field by Josh Darrow brought JJ Sonnen in to score, closing the gap to one run. Sonnen had a stellar day at the plate, hitting 4 for 4 with two runs, and added two stolen bases as well, including a third advancement on a throwing error. Oliver said Sonnen was not feeling well before the game.
“He did a good job in the leadoff spot, he sucked it up and performed,” Oliver said.
Chugiak added a run in the fourth to extend the lead to 3-1, but a big fifth inning created late drama. Sonnen led off with a single, stole second and got to third on a sacrifice fly by Kenny Griffin. Sonnen ultimately made it home on a ground-ball single by Tommy Bowe.
Calvin Hills followed that up with a hit that scored Bowe, tying the game at 3, but Tyler Covey was tagged out sliding into third base to end the inning.
On the mound, Becher began having an increasingly difficult time, as he hit two batters in the sixth and beaned another two in the top of the eighth. Overall, Becher recorded six hit batters, but otherwise pieced together a solid 7 1-3 innings, giving up four hits, three earned runs and striking out six.
“He had a few of those, but he still pitched us out of a few difficult spots during the game as well,” Oliver said. “We could’ve won the game as easily as we could’ve lost it.”
The Twins had runners in scoring position in the bottom of the sixth, but a double play from third to first base, which ousted Kyle Johnson and Justice Miller, ended the inning.
In the overtime inning, Becher hit Brady Lindberg while Brandon Neal connected for a single and advanced to second on a throwing error to first. Matt Hess loaded the bases when he was hit by a pitch, and the go-ahead run was scored by Lindberg when Jared Phearson was walked. The Mustangs added two more runs on a single by Straub that brought Neal and Hess across home plate.
At the bottom of the frame, Hills struck out and Johnson and Jacob Conver notched sac flies to clinch the win for Chugiak. Coach Straub said it was a fine way for Chugiak cleanup pitcher Matt Hess to end the game.
“He jammed the first guy, threw high on the second and was gonna go outside on the third guy, who got a solid hit on him to pop out,” Straub said.
Jimmy Lanier earned the win on the mound, tossing seven innings and giving up nine hits, four walks and getting five strikeouts.
In the second game, Chugiak scored four runs in the second inning to grab the early lead and never looked back.
Bowe led Post 20 at the plate, going 2 for 4 with two runs and two stolen bases. Cody Quelland registered a big plate appearance in the sixth inning with a two-RBI single, and added two walks as well. Oliver also said Terrance Slats performed well in recording a run in the inning.
Klayton Justice, who finished up the first game with the final two outs, started the second contest on the mound and finished with two innings of work. Kyle Johnson, Bowe, Miller and Conver all got time as well.
Oliver said it was another game of missed opportunities, as the Twins left 10 men on base. Chugiak left nine on base.
After the game, Oliver summed up the day with a quote he’s used before, including in 2012, when the Twins won the state baseball championship.