For six clean innings, the American Legion Twins were holding their own against a stout division-leading Dimond Lynx team.
Then, everything was thrown into Friday the 13th chaos in a matter of minutes.
In a wild finish, the Lynx scored four runs in the top of the seventh inning to escape with a 4-1 win over the Twins at Coral Seymour Memorial Ballpark, ending what had been a crisp, clean game for the local nine.
For the Twins, it marked the second straight league contest they gave up a lead in the final three innings of play. Wednesday against South Anchorage, Post 20 lost after leading 5-1.
“It was another great game pitched by us,” said Post 20 head coach Robb Quelland. “We got 6 1/3 great innings from (starter Logan Smith), but the pitch count got too be high.”
The Twins ended up splitting the Friday doubleheader with a 7-2 win over Dimond in the nonleague contest. The Twins dropped to 8-6 in the league and are 13-12-1 overall this summer. Dimond is 13-1 in the league and 18-6 overall.
The sloppy seventh inning craziness began with starting right-hander Logan Smith attempting to finish a complete game shutout. Smith got the first out on a line out to right field, but gave up a single by Dimond catcher Jack Dolan, hit Josh Knowlton with a pitch and walked Zach Jenkins to load the bases.
Quelland turned to reliever Austin Asp to get out of the jam, but Lynx outfielder Luke Smith immediately jumped on Asp with a gametying RBI single, and the go-ahead run also scored on the play when Twins second baseman David Michael attempted to catch Knowlton in a rundown between second and third. When Michael turned his attention instead to pinch runner Jacob Lick, the throw to Twins catcher Jacob Boze was dropped, allowing Lick to score and put Dimond ahead 2-1.
Isaiah Mills followed that up with a soft chopper to Asp on the mound, whose throw to first base was off the mark, allowing another two runs to score for a 4-1 lead.
“It was pretty crazy way to end it,” said Dimond head coach Dan Montagna. “It’s always tough to play Kenai, they’re well-coached and have really good pitching. It’s always fun and always a little tense.”
In the bottom of the seventh, the Twins went quietly with a groundout by Trapper Thompson, a flyout by Andrew Carver and a flyout by Smith to end the game.
“It’s tough coming in with the bases loaded, nothing good came out of it,” Quelland said. “It was a setup for failure.”
Quelland said the decision to keep Smith pitching into the final inning was a no-brainer after seeing him mow down the Lynx in the first six frames, but pulling him with the bases loaded was more of a pitch count decision, as Smith was nearing the league-instituted pitch limit of 105 pitches.
Smith did not show regret about his solid pitching performance that ultimately went wasted, explaining that his teammates had his back.
“It happens,” Smith said. “But we all work as a team, and we pick each other up.”
Prior to the late fireworks, the two sides had gone pitch for pitch in a defensive gem. Both Smith and Dimond starter Jake Andresen mirrored each other in locking down the others’ offense.
Andresen, considered one of the best pitchers in the state, notched nine strikeouts in the complete game outing. Andresen walked one and gave up four hits in the stellar showing.
“He’s probably one of the best pitchers we’ve seen,” Quelland said. “We have not seen better this summer.”
Andresen will become a teammate of Kenai’s Paul Steffensen at Mesa Community College (Arizona) this fall.
Smith whiffed five and gave up only two hits in 6 1/3 innings against the Lynx, and said his fastball helped him work favorable counts throughout the day, and a changeup and slider helped him finish batters.
“The defense was perfect behind me,” Smith said. “It felt good knowing they were there.”
The Twins took the lead in the bottom of the fifth as Jeremy Kupferschmid broke the stalemate with an RBI double to the right-center gap that scored pinch runner Herald Ochea. Ochea had taken the place of Twins catcher Boze, who has limited experience at the position following the vacancy of veteran starter Cody Quelland. Boze reached base on a hit pitch in his at-bat.
Smith had retired the side in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, leaving the Twins with a 1-0 lead heading into the seventh. More than half of Dimond’s outs came on well-played pop ups and groundouts by Twins fielders.
The Twins will face Palmer Post 15 Sunday at home before finishing a suspended rainout contest against Service from June 15 on Tuesday. Service led 2-0 after 2 1/2 innings of play in that game, which will be resumed from that spot.