The American Legion Twins rallied from two runs down with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning to notch a crucial, 5-4 league win over West on Tuesday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai.
The Twins then won the second half of the doubleheader 15-5 in a nonleague contest that was shortened to 4 2-3 innings due to the mercy rule.
Only the top eight teams of the 15 in Alaska Legion make it to the state tournament. While the Twins still had eight of their 18 Legion games left to play heading into Tuesday, it’s getting to be the time where games can mean the difference between state and no state.
With the comeback victory over West, the Twins moved to 6-5 in the league and 14-10 overall. The Twins have 29 points in the league standings, which tied the local nine with South for eighth place pending the results of South’s game with Dimond on Tuesday.
West is 2-12 in the league, but nobody would have known that by the way starter Dillon Oberly worked through the early innings.
“He had everything working,” West coach Matt Kays said. “He was changing speeds just enough to keep Kenai back on their heels. There was solid defense behind him.”
But the Twins also were solid on defense, with Kenny Griffin shutting West out for the first three innings and Calvin Hills allowing two runs in the next two.
“It was the story of our season,” Twins coach Robb Quelland said. “We started out slow and couldn’t get the bats going, but we had solid pitching and defense.”
But West did get to Tommy Bowe for two runs in 1 2-3 innings, taking a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the seventh.
“The older players and the younger players had a nice conversation,” Quelland said. “It was a players-only group that gave them some intensity headed into the bottom of the seventh.”
Oberly recorded the first two outs of the inning before the Twins rallied. Griffin and Josh Darrow had singles, then moved to second and third on steals.
Tommy Bowe then had a shot to third and managed to beat it out when the ball wasn’t handled cleanly. Griffin scored on the play, while Darrow moved up to third.
The Twins wouldn’t have to put the ball in play again to win the game. With Michael Swoboda at the plate, the catcher threw wildly to third trying to pick off Darrow, allowing Darrow to score and Bowe to move to third. A passed ball then brought home Bowe with the winning run.
“We’re still learning how to close,” Kays said. “A couple runs here and there and we could be in the top tier of the league.
“Errors did us in today.”
The second game did not have the same drama as Kays played his younger players in order to get them experience. The Twins took a 7-2 lead after the second inning and never looked back.
Klayton Justice pitched the first three innings for the Twins, giving up two runs — one earned — on two hits. Justice Miller had a scoreless and hitless inning, while JJ Sonnen have up three runs — one earned — on two hits in an inning.
At the plate, Darrow scored three runs; Sonnen was 2 for 2 with two runs and four RBIs; Michael Swoboda had a walk, run and RBI; and Jake Conver was 2 for 4 with a run and two RBIs.
It was Conver who singled with two down in the fifth inning to bring in Sonnen and Swoboda and invoke the mercy rule.
“That shows how deep this team is,” Quelland said of Conver’s hit. “Anybody can come through.”
Kays said Billy Ballentine was solid all day in center field. He also was 1 for 2 with an RBI and run in the second game. Chris Poston also had a single, RBI and a run.
The Twins continue their chase for the state tournament with four crucial games this weekend in Anchorage. Friday, the Twins face Fairbanks Post 11 in league games at 3 and 6 p.m. Saturday, the Twins face Fairbanks Post 30 in league games at noon and 3 p.m.