The American Legion Twins fell 5-4 to East on Thursday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai in consolation play at the 37th edition of the Bill Miller Wood Bat Tournament.
In the tournament championship, Columbia (Tennessee) Post 19 defeated Excelsior Post 259 out of Minneapolis 4-0. In the other consolation game, the Lone Peak Post 19 Misfits of Highland, Utah, notched a 10-0 win over Bartlett.
With the players swinging wood bats for a fourth game in three days, well-struck balls to the outfield were sure to be a rarity. This put the emphasis on the finer points of the game for both the Twins (12-10 overall) and Thunderbirds (5-14), particularly bunt defense.
In the second inning, the Twins got on the board first when Andrew Carver walked and scored when East pitcher Patrick Leshan threw wildly after fielding the bunt of Logan Smith.
East tied the game in the third when Johnny Earhart reached on an infield single, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a sac fly by Ricky Gatter.
The Twins retook the lead in the fourth when Smith walked and courtesy runner Austin Ceccarelli stole second, took third on a balk and scored when Trapper Thompson was able to get down a bunt.
The Thunderbirds took the lead for good in the sixth using more small ball. With runners on first and second and nobody out, Chase Solberg got down a bunt. Pitcher Smith was going to throw to third, but bobbled the ball. He went to first late and threw wildly, allowing Gatter and Erick White to score. Solberg would eventually score on an error by third baseman Carver for a 4-2 lead.
East coach Kurt Solberg said Chase Solberg’s but was placed perfectly, making for a tough play for Smith.
“Chase is probably the best bunter on the team,” Kurt Solberg said.
Twins coach Robb Quelland said the play robbed his team of momentum, but he was happy with the way the Twins battled back.
In the sixth, Smith walked and courtesy runner Ceccarelli would score on an error from the second baseman. East got that run right back in the seventh, when David Lundall singled, advanced on a stolen base and passed ball, and scored on a single by Octavius McKleskey for a 5-3 lead.
With David Michael on third after a triple, the Twins tried to rally in the seventh. Carver, Smith and Harold Ochea walked off reliever Solberg, who is battling a swollen hand, to cup the gap to 5-4 with the bases loaded.
Patrick Leshan, who started and pitched the first four innings, then returned to the mound and retired Trapper Thompson on a grounder to end the game.
“He is a good pitcher,” coach Solberg said of Leshan. “Last year, he was unstoppable.”
Solberg said bringing Leshan back in was necessary because East only brought nine players on the trip.
“I don’t know how they made it through the week,” Quelland said. “My hat’s off to them.”
East has been without three of its top four pitchers due to injury, but with those players about to get healthy, Solberg said his team is ready to go on a run.
Harrison Metz led the Twins by going 2 for 4, while Quelland said Smith pitched well enough to win. He went six innings and gave up a hit and four runs — just one earned. He walked two and struck out eight. Thompson gave up a run and three hits in an inning of relief.