Service starting pitcher Hunter Christian delivers to Napoleon (Ohio) in the final of the Lance Coz Wood Bat Tournament on Monday, June 24, 2024, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Service starting pitcher Hunter Christian delivers to Napoleon (Ohio) in the final of the Lance Coz Wood Bat Tournament on Monday, June 24, 2024, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Napoleon (Ohio) wins 5th Lance Coz title since 2008

Post 20 Twins take 3rd place

The Post 300 Napoleon (Ohio) River Bandits defeated the Post 28 Service Cougars 7-5 on Monday to win the Lance Coz Wood Bat Tournament title at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai.

This is the fifth Lance Coz crown for Napoleon since 2008. The River Bandits also lost in the title game in 2019 and 2015.

Napoleon head coach Chad Donsbach, who started with the program in 2007 and became head coach in 2017, said his squad loves coming to Alaska.

“We come to Alaska because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip for some of our kids and parents,” Donsbach said. “It’s so uniquely different from Ohio, we feel it’s an opportunity we can’t pass up.

“We try to do it every two to three years. We try to do it so we don’t have kids repeat, though we have one kid that is on his second trip up here. We get to do so many cool things up here, things they can’t do in Ohio. It’s 65 degrees here, and it’s 100 degrees at home.”

Donsbach also said the Lance Coz tourney is a highlight.

The tournament has been renamed in honor of Coz, who died in September 2020 at 73. He was pivotal in starting the Twins program and served as general manager and head coach until his death. The program won state titles in 1991, 1995, 2012 and 2016.

Twins coach Robb Quelland said, thanks to all the donations from the community, the organization tries to be as hospitable as possible. The tournament has T-shirts and a banquet with door prizes plus a menu of salmon, halibut, Southern ribs, 20 different desserts and 10 different salads.

“Robb does a great job running it, and when Lance was alive, he did a tremendous job,” Donsbach said. “When you find a tournament with good people that run it the right way, you want to continue to come back.

“As long as Kenai will continue to have us, we’ll continue to come back.”

As long as Napoleon comes back, the River Bandits will be in the running to win the tournament.

Donsbach said the program draws from 10 to 12 schools in a corner of northwest Ohio that loves its baseball. He said at least 17 players have been drafted out of the program, with about eight making the big leagues and even a couple starting in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

On the current team, Monday starter Abe DeLano is committed to Division I Western Kentucky while starting center fielder Trey Rubinstein will play football for Kent State University, a Football Bowl Sudivision school. Donsbach said six or seven other players will go to junior colleges.

The River Bandits are 6-0 on their trip to Alaska, but had a 3-2 game with the Post 20 Twins on Sunday and the close game with Service, which just won the Division I state high school title, on Monday.

“When we first started coming up here, it was some very easy, easy games,” Donsbach said. “The last couple games we’ve had just in this tournament have been dogfights.

“That’s what we want. We’re not looking to come up here and destroy people. We want to be in competitive games. The commitment Alaska has made to Legion baseball and high school baseball is definitely showing in improvement.”

The River Bandits, now 22-4 overall, went up 5-0 on the Cougars (10-3) after two innings. Just one of the runners that scored reached on a hit.

“Whether it’s walks, whether it’s hit by pitches, whether it’s defensive miscues, you let good teams get runners on base, you’re going to have a long day ahead of you,” Service head coach Willie Paul said.

The Cougars were able to score three in the top of the sixth to cut the gap to 6-5.

“We threw a couple of balls away and gave them the opportunity to chip away at us,” Donsbach said. “Service being the good team they are, they took advantage of it.”

DeLano gave up five runs on five hits in 6 2-3 innings with four walks and seven strikeouts, with Luke Hardy recording the final out.

Paul, whose team was missing three starters due to Outside trips, was happy with the way his squad handled the wood bats against a Division I pitcher.

“Our approaches were good,” he said. “We saw the pitches we wanted to see and were able to take good swings on them.”

For Service, Hunter Christian gave up five runs on two hits in three innings, and Kolby Jensen gave up two runs on four hits in three innings.

Andrew Hickman and Keagan Lennox each had a pair of hits for the Cougars.

Earlier, the Twins (7-7) defeated the Post 15 Palmer Pioneers (2-8) 8-2 for third place at the tournament.

Post 20, the visiting team on the scoreboard, was down 2-1 entering the top of the sixth. The Twins got two in the sixth and five in the seventh to salt away the win.

“I don’t know if we just started seeing pitches better, or we just settled in,” Quelland said. “We’re the kind of a team that takes some spark somewhere.

“You get some sort of small ball or a good play or good pitching, the next thing you know, they’re playing well.”

Jayden Stuyvesant allowed two runs on four hits for the Twins, while Andrew Pieh allowed no runs on a hit in four innings.

Quelland said his team made some minor, costly mistakes during the tournament, but the coach said he’s still tinkering with the lineup as he seeks to combine players from Kodiak and the Kenai Peninsula’s high schools.

“We’re still in the transition point of our season,” he said. “We haven’t hit the halfway mark. We’re sitting where we want to be.”

Pieh and Gabe Smith both had a pair of hits for the Twins, while Gabe Joanis scored a pair of runs.

The Twins now open play at the Alaska 529 Midseason Classic at Mulcahy Stadium in Anchorage, playing Chugiak at 11:45 a.m. Friday and Service at 2:15 p.m. Friday.

Quelland said that, in general, only top tier teams are invited to the tournament. The last time the Twins went is 2015.

The coach said that tournament will be another great opportunity to see quality competition and keep improving.

Napoleon (Ohio) River Bandits starting pitcher Abe DeLano delivers to Service in the final of the Lance Coz Wood Bat Tournament on Monday, June 24, 2024, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Napoleon (Ohio) River Bandits starting pitcher Abe DeLano delivers to Service in the final of the Lance Coz Wood Bat Tournament on Monday, June 24, 2024, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Napoleon (Ohio) River Bandits player Kadyn Radzik dives back into first safely in front of Service first baseman Owen Hickman in the final of the Lance Coz Wood Bat Tournament on Monday, June 24, 2024, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Napoleon (Ohio) River Bandits player Kadyn Radzik dives back into first safely in front of Service first baseman Owen Hickman in the final of the Lance Coz Wood Bat Tournament on Monday, June 24, 2024, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

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