In a year that the Post 20 Twins have dealt with a post-championship rebuilding effort, Saturday’s clash with South Anchorage could prove to be the kick-start that the Legion AA team needs.
Catcher Cody Quelland completed a late Post 20 comeback with a walk-off single to right field, giving the Twins a 9-8 league win over the Wolverines at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai.
The Twins swept Saturday’s doubleheader against South, winning the second, nonleague, game of the day 8-7. The Twins also came from behind to win that game, rallying from a 4-2 deficit by scoring six runs in the sixth inning.
With the two victories, the Twins moved to 9-6 in league play and 14-12 overall, good for fourth in the Legion AA American Division standings. South dropped into a tie for first with Dimond at 11-5 in league play, 15-10 overall.
In the first game, with the score tied at 8-all, Twins shortstop Paul Steffensen loaded the bases by drawing a one-out walk, giving Quelland a chance to do something special.
“I just saw a fastball and swung hard,” Quelland said. “(It had) beautiful pop, just seamless off the bat.”
Quelland landed the ball into shallow right field to bring Logan Smith home for the winning run. Quelland said the game-winning hit was an instant favorite of his.
“It’s the most memorable one by far,” he said. “I think that’s the only one I’ve had.”
The finish capped a day that saw Steffensen belt a two-run homer over the left field fence, Jeremy Kupferschmid earn the win in relief and the Twins make up a five-run deficit with gritty teamwork.
Post 20 trailed 5-0 after three innings and 8-4 in the middle of the eighth.
“The strategy is to get people on (base) and trust the batters to do their job,” Quelland said.
Kupferschmid pitched the final two innings in relief of starter Mose Hayes and picked up the win by giving up just one run on one hit, while striking out one. Hayes struck out five while giving up seven runs (four earned) on seven hits and three walks in seven innings of work.
Steffensen ended up 3 for 5 with two runs and Adam Brinster was 3 for 4.
Overall, the Twins stranded a remarkable 12 men on base in the victory.
Coach Robb Quelland said the victory was “instrumental” in helping the Twins’ chances of qualifying for state and making some noise.
“They’re all ‘have-to’s’,” he said, implying the importance of winning at this stage of the season.
Quelland said Saturday was only the second time this summer the Twins have had a full team of players to put on the field, and the results followed.
“The defense played a lot better,” Quelland said. “We’re not going to win games with seven or eight errors.”
Cody Quelland was 0 for 4 to start the day, including a strikeout looking with runners on second and third to end the second frame, but turned it on in his final two at-bats in the eighth and ninth innings, hitting two singles including the walk-off.
“My first couple of at-bats, I didn’t do too well,” he said. “I kind of got down in the dumps but picked it up once we got that rally.”
South scored four runs in the top of the third — three coming on fielding errors — to grab a 5-0 lead, but Steffensen announced the Twins’ intentions with a blast to left field with two outs on the board.
The Twins kept coming in the bottom of the fifth. Tanner Ussing drew a two-out walk to load the bases, and South starter Terran Sugita walked Smith and Porter Fannon to force in consecutive runs, closing the gap to 6-4.
The Wolverines pulled Sugita in favor of Ryan Bailey, who had to face Twins leadoff hitter Steffensen. Luckily for Bailey, Steffensen lined out to left field to end the threat.
Run-scoring singles by Damien Mohl in the sixth and Josh Costello in the eighth helped bring South’s lead back up to 8-4, but the Twins had more in them. Pinch-hitter Harrison Metz led off the bottom of the eighth with a clutch single, and Steffensen was intentionally walked, bringing up Quelland, who knocked into a base hit to juice the bags.
Kupferschmid hit into fielder’s choice to score pinch-runner Joe Ravin, and Steffensen also made it home on a throwing error to third base, cutting South’s lead to 8-6.
Brinster brought Quelland home on a sacrifice bunt, then Kupferschmid tied the game on a balk.
“It’s not the prettiest part of baseball, but small ball is how you win games,” Quelland said. “We’ve been up and down this year, and this win puts us in good position to make state.”
Coach Quelland said Kupferschmid helped raise his stock as a pitcher on the team, giving the Twins another pitching option down the road should they require it.