Service’s Landon Martindale gets back to first base safely in front of Post 20 Twins first baseman Matthew Schilling on Sunday, June 23, 2024, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Service’s Landon Martindale gets back to first base safely in front of Post 20 Twins first baseman Matthew Schilling on Sunday, June 23, 2024, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Service, Napoleon (Ohi0) advance to Lance Coz championship

The Post 28 Service Cougars and Post 300 Napoleon (Ohio) River Bandits advanced to the title game of the Lance Coz Wood Bat Tournament at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai.

The River Bandits will be seeking their fifth Lance Coz title since 2008. In 2014, Service reached the final against Columbia (Tennessee), but that game was rained out.

The tournament is named 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.

The tournament actually started Saturday in Anchorage, with Service defeating the Post 15 Palmer Pioneers 3-2 and the River Bandits knocking off the Pioneers 10-0 in five innings.

Sunday at Seymour Park, Napoleon defeated the Twins 3-2, Service topped the Twins 9-1 and Napoleon defeated Service 10-4.

Monday at Seymour Park, the Pioneers and Twins square off at 11 a.m. for third place, and the Cougars and River Bandits play for the title at 2 p.m.

Although Eagle River has won the last three Legion titles and is 10-0 in the league and 12-0 overall, it’d be fair to say the Lance Coz title game will put Alaska’s best against the powerhouse River Bandits (21-4 overall).

Service (10-2) won the Division I high school state title this season after coach Willie Paul had lost five state title appearances in high school or Legion since 2016. The Cougars also recently won all three pool play games in the Battle for Omaha before losing in the semifinals.

Both the River Bandits and Cougars were able to show off their strengths in defeating the Twins, who are now 6-7 overall.

Twins coach Robb Quelland, whose team has lost in the Legion state semifinals the last two years, said it was great to battle two quality opponents. Napoleon is now 5-0 on its trip to Alaska.

“The players get to see the quality, how they perform, how they prepare for the game, and see the speed of the different players,” Quelland said. “And they held their own.”

Napoleon was able to survive another big outing by Twins starter Trenton Ohnemus. Ohnemus went five innings and gave up a run on four hits while walking four and striking out six.

“Trenton was on,” Quelland said. “Even the Ohio coaches said that was one of the best pitchers they’ve seen all year.”

Napoleon took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth, but the Twins battled back with two runs in the bottom of the fourth. The River Bandits then won it with two runs in the top of the sixth off of Hunter Williams. Quelland said there was a costly error in the rally.

“Hunter pitched very well,” Quelland said.

Jacob Shadle went the distance for the River Bandits, giving up two runs — one earned — on three hits while walking one and striking out seven.

The Twins all come from the Division II level of high school.

“It just takes us long with hitting because the pitching is so good,” Quelland said. “We still have guys coming back to the dugout going, ‘I haven’t seen a curve like that before,’ or, ‘I haven’t seen a slider like that before.’

“DII just doesn’t have that.”

Jayden Stuyvesant had a double that knocked in Andrew Pieh and Gabe Smith against Napoleon. Pieh and Levi Mickelson also had hits.

Trey Rubinstein was 3 for 5 with two RBIs for the River Bandits, while Owen Espinoza scored twice.

In the 9-1 victory, the Cougars showed the depth of their program. Three starters — Rilen Niclai, Chase Mascelli and Jake Rafferty — were out of state.

Another star of the high school team — Coen Niclai — is not playing Legion this season because he participated in the MLB Draft League and MLB Draft Combine.

“We expect a lot of our guys and we kind of preach that all year,” Paul said. “When you get your chance, you take advantage of it.

“We knew going into this year that there were guys that were going on some family trips or some college visits, and there were guys that had to step up in certain spots. I think this game proved that they can and they’re hungry to earn their starting spot.”

Service led 6-0 by the top of the fourth inning. The Cougars took 11 walks, pounded out nine hits and also had two hit by pitches. Landon Martindale and Trey Maltby each had two hits.

“I think we made good contact, considering it’s wood,” Paul said. “And being able to work counts is always a huge benefit.”

Andrew Hickman did not allow a hit or run in three innings, while Palmer Dalton went four innings and allowed an unearned run on a hit.

For the Twins, Matthew Schilling pitched 2 1-3 innings and gave up five runs — three earned — on a hit while walking seven. Andrew Pieh gave up a run on no hits in 1 2-3 innings, while Gabe Smith gave up three runs on eight hits in three innings.

Mickelson had the hit and run for the Twins.

Post 20 Twins shortstop records a force out on Service’s Trey Maltby on Sunday, June 23, 2024, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Post 20 Twins shortstop records a force out on Service’s Trey Maltby on Sunday, June 23, 2024, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Post 20 Twins catcher Jayden Stuyvesant tags out Trey Maltby at the plate Sunday, June 23, 2024, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Post 20 Twins catcher Jayden Stuyvesant tags out Trey Maltby at the plate Sunday, June 23, 2024, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

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