Nikiski’s Sue Coup throws out the first pitch at a ceremony honoring former Twins head coach and general manager Lance Coz on Saturday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski’s Sue Coup throws out the first pitch at a ceremony honoring former Twins head coach and general manager Lance Coz on Saturday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Post 20, Twins honor Coz

Eagle River notches doubleheader sweep

The American Legion Twins capped an emotional Saturday at the Coral Seymour Memorial Park by getting swept in a doubleheader by Eagle River.

Before the game, the Twins combined with American Legion Post 20 for a ceremony honoring Lance Coz. Coz died in late September 2020 at 73. He was pivotal in starting the Twins program in 1975 and served as manager and head coach, qualifying the Twins for state 43 times in 45 years. The team won state titles in 1991, 1995, 2012 and 2016.

A sampling of players and parents throughout those years attended the ceremony.

“It was a good turnout,” Twins head coach Robb Quelland said. “It was nice to see a lot of players and their families here.”

The event also was broadcast on Facebook Live. Quelland said it was neat meeting some of the players from the 1980s, wearing their Twins jackets and hats.

The ceremony started with the Twins taking the third-base line and Eagle River taking the first-base line.

Quelland said the Eagle River game was chosen for a reason. Eagle River head coach Bill Lierman said he knew Coz going back to his time as a player from 1992 to 1996 at Chugiak.

Lierman’s late father, also Bill Lierman, knew Coz going all the way back to the late 1980s.

“I don’t know another man in Alaska baseball who has done more for a good number of kids,” Lierman said. “He managed over 750 kids.”

Lierman said he took over the Chugiak program in 2004 from his father.

“When my dad got out, he’d sit with Lance and watch the games,” Lierman said. “They’d laugh at me most of the time.”

The ceremony continued with a posting of the colors in front of a table that had a jersey, plaque, picture and tournament programs in Coz’s honor.

After an opening prayer, Bob Bird read a history and tribute to Coz.

Coz, born and raised in Yuma, Arizona, came to visit his brother in Kenai in the early 1970s and fell in love with the area.

Not only would his teams have success at state, but two former players — Marshall Boze and Chris Mabeus — would play in the major leagues. Joey Newby pitched at the Triple A level, while Dennis Machado was picked in the Major League Baseball draft.

“There aren’t many places that he could walk into in the Kenai-Soldotna area and not see a former player or player’s family,” Bird read.

In addition to meaning so much to the Twins program, Coz also was active in the founding of the Kenai Peninsula Boys and Girls Club.

Bird noted that even as Coz battled diabetes, causing him to lose part of his right leg, Coz would still always make it to watch the Twins play.

After “Taps” and a closing prayer, Nikiski’s Sue Coup threw the opening pitch to Twins catcher Jacob Belger.

Coup, who said she has been friends with Coz forever, said the ceremony was a perfect way to honor Coz.

“He was just awesome,” Coup said. “He basically devoted his life to Post 20 Twins baseball.”

Coup then added a sentiment shared by those in attendance, where more than a few eyes were moist for reasons other than a cold wind blowing through the park.

“We love him and we miss him very much,” Coup said.

After the ceremony, the Twins lost the league game 9-1 and the nonleague game 12-4. Eagle River moves to 5-6 in the league and 11-6 overall. Lierman said each of Eagle River’s losses have come by one run.

The Twins fall to 2-6 in the league and 5-9 overall. The top two teams in each division, plus the next best four records, make up the eight-team state tournament. The Twins are currently seventh on the list after the top two in each division.

The league game belonged to Eagle River starter and winner Luke Barch, who went all seven innings and gave up a run on four hits while striking out seven and walking two. Quelland said his squad has had trouble hitting pitchers with good velocity, and Barch fit that bill.

“He filled up the zone and threw strikes, and we played clean defense behind him,” Lierman said.

Lierman also said the team helped Barch by getting out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning.

Starter Atticus Gibson would take loss for the Twins, yielding eight runs — seven earned — on seven hits while striking out one and walking four. Sam Berry allowed an unearned run in two innings of work, while Jace Appelhans recorded the last two outs without issue.

Orazio Ramos was 4 for 4 with three runs for Eagle River, while Stefan Retzlaff was 2 for 4 with two runs, Joshua Thompson was 2 for 4 with three RBIs, and Noah Lawer had two runs and two RBIs.

The hits for the Twins went to Harrison Metz, Nick Wehrstein, Levi Mickelson and Riley Johnson. Metz had the RBI, while Andrew Pieh had the run.

In the nonleague game, Eagle River once again rode an early lead to victory. Eagle River led 6-0 after the top of the third before the Twins cut it to 6-4 after the bottom of the third. Eagle River then scored the final six runs of the game.

Alex Mullen got the win for Eagle River, going five innings and giving up four unearned runs on four hits. Ramos finished up with two scoreless innings.

The Twins sent seven pitchers to the mound, with none piching more than two innings.

Mullen was 2 for 2 with three runs, while Connor Johnson was 2 for 5 with two runs.

For the Twins, Colby Sturman was 3 for 3, while Metz and Gibson each had two RBIs.

A table of momentos honors former American Legion Twins manager and head coach Lance Coz on Saturday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

A table of momentos honors former American Legion Twins manager and head coach Lance Coz on Saturday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Eagle River’s Cam Witte reaches second base safely against Twins second baseman Daltyn Deborski on Saturday, July 3, 2021, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Eagle River’s Cam Witte reaches second base safely against Twins second baseman Daltyn Deborski on Saturday, July 3, 2021, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

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