Winning opportunities do not come around often against a team like the South Anchorage Wolverines, which is why Wednesday’s American Legion loss stung particularly bad for the Post 20 Twins.
The Wolverines rallied from a four-run deficit with seven unanswered runs to score an 8-5 league win over the Twins at a windy Coral Seymour Memorial Ballpark. South and Kenai played to a 4-all tie in the second, nonleague, game of the day.
“They didn’t give up,” said South coach Mike Webster. “They just took it one run at a time, and worked on staying in the game.”
South is fresh off winning the BP Invitational tournament last weekend in Anchorage, the first Alaskan team to do so since 2010, by pitching a shutout against Excelsior Post 259 of Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the championship. South beat all three teams from out of state in the tournament.
Wednesday’s 1-0-1 showing in Kenai left South at 10-3 in division play and 18-7-1 overall, second in the American Division, while the Twins dropped to 8-5 in league and 12-11-1 overall.
The Twins led 5-1 after three innings after plating three runs in the third on two errors and six walks, but the Wolverines scored seven unanswered to grab the win.
“It’s very disheartening for us,” said Twins head coach Robb Quelland. “(Starting pitcher) Adam (Brinster) looked sharp and we wanted to back him up, but it was kind of like we lost focus for a few minutes.”
Brinster gave up eight runs (three earned) in six innings with 11 hits and a walk. Brinster struck out just one batter. Paul Steffensen pitched the seventh in relief with scoreless, hitless ball.
South starter Gunnar Nix returned after a shaky third inning with four innings of two-hit ball, giving up five runs (two earned) on eight walks and three strikeouts. Gage Webster was credited with the win with three innings of scoreless relief. Webster gave up six hits and one walk, but struck out three.
Andrew Carver and Trapper Thompson both hit 2 for 2, while leadoff hitter Paul Steffensen had two RBIs.
Five errors and 12 men left on base doomed the Twins.
“The reality is we’re a younger team and we made some key mistakes,” Quelland said. “But that has to change at this point in the season. We had the game, and suddenly two to three defensive errors lead to runs, and four to five bad baserunning mistakes added to that.”
Nix issued six walks in the third, including five in a row, to serve up three runs to the Twins. Brinster led off the frame with a walk before Austin Asp and Harrison Metz both grounded out, but the Post 20 rally took off with two outs on the board.
Nix walked David Michael, Andrew Carver, Logan Smith, Trapper Thompson and Paul Steffensen in succession. Pinch runner Davey Belger scored on a catcher error, and Michael scored on a passed ball before a bases-loaded walk by Steffensen forced Carver in for a 5-1 lead.
Jeremy Kupferschmid struck out to end the frame, leaving South in a four-run hole.
The Wolverined finally answered in the top of the fifth, starting with a leadoff single by Nix and another single by Liam Lincoln. Nix scored on an infield single by Josh Costello.
The big blow came on two fielding mistakes by the Twins when Jimmy McGovern grounded into a fielder’s choice play. Steffensen fielded the grounder but the throw was off and landed in shallow center, leading to one run by Lincoln.
A second run scored on a bad throw to home plate by right fielder Herald Ochea.
South then tied it up on an RBI single by Gage Webster.
Adding to the Twins’ misery was two baserunning errors in the bottom of the fourth when two outs were recorded at third base on Post 20 players trying to swipe an extra base on balls put in play.
The hits kept coming for South in the top of the sixth with another two leadoff singles by Terren Sugita and Nix, both of whom scored on a fielder’s choice knock by Lincoln that resulted in a throw home to get an out. Sugita collided with Twins catcher Smith to knock the ball loose, putting South ahead 6-5, and a second run scored on the ensuing error.
Costello singled in another run to cap the comeback before the inning ended.
The Twins loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh, but the final two outs came at plays at the plate to end the game.
In the second nonleague game, Ochea had a strong start on the mound, pitching three no-hit innings before making his exit. Ochea finished with one run on three walks with two strikeouts.
Kupferschmid, Austin Ceccarelli and Asp finished the day in relief. Kupferschmid gave up an unearned run on one hit and whiffed two in the fourth inning, while Ceccarelli pitched two frames of two-hit ball and gave up two unearned runs, and Asp finished the final two innings of scoreless relief, giving up two hits and whiffing two.
The Twins took a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the fifth with three runs. David Michael had an RBI single, then scored the go-ahead run on a passed ball.
South tied it at the top of sixth with an RBI single by Jacob Woodall.