Legion Twins split opening day Big Fish tourney

It took two years and a trip all the way back to Alaska, but Columbia, Tennessee, Post 19 got its revenge Tuesday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai.

In 2012, the American Legion Twins beat Columbia 2-0 on the opening day of the Bill Miller Big Fish Tournament. It still stands as the only time the Twins have beaten a former Legion World Series champion.

The two squads were then set to meet in the championship game that year, but it was rained out.

But Columbia, which won the World Series in 2007 and counts Atlanta Braves’ Dan Uggla and at least 10 minor leaguers as alumni of the program, returned and defeated the Twins 11-2 on Tuesday in the opening day of the Bill Miller tourney.

“We obviously wanted to avenge that loss,” Columbia coach Scott Beasley said. “We don’t lose very often, so when we do lose to a team, we like to come back and beat them.”

In order to get that victory, Columbia rolled out its best pitcher in Jake Usher, a 19-year-old who played baseball this season for Walters State Community College. That is one of the top junior colleges in the country, according to Beasley.

The coach said Usher brings a fastball at 88 mph. He also has a nice change-up and nasty curveball.

He pitched the first five innings and gave up two runs — one earned — on two hits while walking three and striking out seven.

Twins head coach Hector Rivera said his players haven’t seen anyone that fast, but did say his team was able to start catching up to Usher in the third inning or so.

“I’m not taking anything away from him,” Rivera said. “He was good.”

Knowing he had to get at least one win to still have a shot at making Thursday’s title game, Rivera had used his top pitcher in an 8-0 victory over Vermont earlier in the day.

Dallas Pierren pitched all seven innings and gave up just three hits, throwing 101 pitches.

On offense for the Twins, Josh Darrow was 2 for 3 with a walk and two RBIs, Pierren was 1 for 2 with two walks and two runs, Tyler Covey was 2 for 4 with two runs, and Justin Wisnewski was 2 for 2 with two runs and two RBIs.

The Twins started Joey Becher against Columbia and he had some issues with control, walking six in 2 2-3 innings. He gave up seven earned runs on five hits as Columbia led 7-0 after three innings.

Klayton Justice pitched 2 1-3 innings for the Twins, yielding three runs on three hits, while Mathew Daugherty finished by allowing an unearned run on two hits in two innings.

“We got the win that we needed to still have an opportunity to get to the championship game,” Rivera said. “That’s what’s important.”

Even though Beasley said Columbia is on a hot streak after winning its own tournament, he said some batters have been struggling lately, so it was nice to see them crank out three triples and a double amongst its eight hits.

Usher was 3 for 4 with two runs and two RBIs, Peyton Sockwell had a triple, two runs and two RBIs, Ryan Helgren had a double and three RBIs, Taylor Gilbert had a triple, run and RBI, and Ben Wright had a triple, run and RBI.

Will Norwood finished with two scoreless and hitless innings on the hill for Tennessee.

The two hits for the Twins came from Darrow and Wisnewski.

In other games Tuesday, it was Service 2, Alberta 1; Alberta 6, California 1; Tennessee 3, Vermont 2; and Service beating California 4-4. In the last game, Service won because the team that scored last wins when the game time reaches 2 hours, 15 minutes.

All three Bill Miller games today are at Coral Seymour Memorial Park. Vermont and California play at 9 a.m. Then come the semifinals — Service vs. Kenai at noon and Alberta vs. Tennessee at 3 p.m.

The title game is at noon Thursday, unless it features two out-of-state teams. Then, the game could be moved to 9 a.m. if the squads want extra time to explore Alaska.

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