Napoleon (Ohio) Post 300 River Bandits general manager Randy Bachman has been coming to Alaska since 2002 and has been impressed by how much baseball has improved in the state during that time.
The American Legion Post 20 Twins only added to that impression Thursday. The River Bandits improved to 4-1 since 2008 in the title game of the Bill Miller/Lance Coz Wood Bat Tournament by topping the Twins 3-0 at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai.
“The quality in 2002 — the Alaska teams were not very good,” Bachman said. “It was like the summer high school teams we had at home. But they have gotten so much better.”
There’s little shame in getting shut out by the River Bandits, particularly when top pitcher DJ Newman is on the mound.
Newman is headed to Bowling Green, one of four Division I pitching recruits on the Napoleon roster. Those four did not give up an earned run in 20 innings while leading the River Bandits to their record fourth Alaska 529 Midseason Classic crown on Sunday in Anchorage.
Napoleon then did not give up a run in going 4-0 at the wood bat tournament.
Wilson went all seven innings, giving up seven hits while walking three and striking out eight.
On his 18th birthday, Atticus Gibson showed the Twins can pitch too. He went four innings and gave up two runs on five hits while walking two and striking out three.
“Their starter was good,” Bachman said. “He was a strike-throwing machine.”
Johnny Brinner also was solid in relief, going two innings and giving up an unearned run on three hits while walking one.
Post 20 coach Robb Quelland said Gibson and Brinner were aware of how explosive Napoleon’s offense can be. The coach gave credit to the two pitchers for holding that offense down.
Quelland also said the Twins learned a lot in getting shut out.
“That was probably one of the most focused games we’ve had,” he said. “We had a couple poor choices on the bases that probably got us, but as the coach said over there, that’s their guy.
“And it was good for the kids to see it. They learned a lot.”
For the Twins, Hunter Williams was able to go 2 for 3 with a wood bat against a Division I pitcher.
Newman helped himself on offense by going 2 for 4 with a run and an RBI. Nolan Schafer was 3 for 3 with an RBI.
This was the first time the tournament had been held since the death of Coz in late September 2020 at 73. Coz was pivotal in starting the Twins program in 1975 and served as manager and head coach until his death.
“It’s nice to have it and have it in Lance’s memory,” Quelland said of the tourney. “He’d be mad we didn’t get first. We tried our best.”
Quelland is proud of the way the families and players came together to provide a great tournament. That hospitality to the River Bandits goes all the way back to 2002.
“Lance was a big help the first year because he’s telling me where to stay, where to go do things, and to stay away from this tourist trap,” Bachman said.
Bachman now has a finely tuned trip the River Bandits do every three years. The routine includes a hike of Flattop Mountain, a trip to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, a trip to Independence Mine State Historical Park, a visit to the Iditarod Headquarters and a trip to the Reindeer Farm.
“I’m telling you, to see these kids in the rooms now hanging out together, from a team chemistry standpoint, you can’t beat it,” Bachman said. “It’s 12 days they’re not at a girlfriend’s house or at football practice. It’s all about baseball now. It always works.”
The Buffalo (Minnesota) Post 270 Cobras defeated Bartlett 9-2 for third place at the tournament.