Everything continues to go well for the Post 300 River Bandits of Napoleon, Ohio, on the baseball diamonds in Alaska. On mountainous hiking trails, though, not so much.
The River Bandits defeated the Post 20 Twins 9-3 on Wednesday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park to move to 3-0 in the Bill Miller Big Fish Wood Bat Tournament and advance to today’s championship game at 9 a.m. at Seymour Park.
Post 300 (22-9 overall, 7-1 in Alaska) will face the squad from Auburn, Rhode Island, which improved to 2-1 at the tourney by toppling Eagle River 18-0 in five innings Wednesday. The Twins (11-6-1 overall) and Eagle River play for third place today at noon at Seymour Park.
The River Bandits arrived June 28 and are leaving July 7 for their 10th trip to Alaska.
“We bring the kids to Alaska so they can experience something very, very different than Ohio,” head coach Chad Donsbach said. “It’s an opportunity to see bears, moose and eagles. There are eagles in Ohio, but not in the amount you have up here.”
Donsbach said the team spaces the trip out every two or three years to make it so players don’t go to Alaska twice, although one player is returning this year. That lets families totally commit to the trip as well.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a lot of these families and a lot of these kids,” he said.
Post 300 has developed traditions over the years, but one of those traditions — hiking Flattop Mountain in Anchorage — may be on the way out.
The mountain is climbed more often than any other in Alaska, but it’s still a mountain with danger spots. Donsbach said they didn’t pick the best route down over the weekend and a player caught a toe while sliding on his butt and ended up tumbling for about 200 yards.
Fortunately, the player was mostly OK, with a laceration on his ear that had to be glued shut and a small broken bone in his hand.
“We’re starting to be able to joke about it now that’s he’s mostly OK, but it was scary when it happened,” Donsbach said.
Also planned for the team are a trip through the Whittier Tunnel, a walk to get a great look at Portage Glacier and a trip to the Reindeer Farm in Palmer.
Donsbach said a final highlight of the trip is the well-organized tournaments and the generous hospitality of the Alaska Legion teams. The River Bandits were set to attend a dinner hosted by the Twins on Wednesday night, then maybe go eagle viewing.
In Wednesday’s game, the Twins kept it scoreless through two innings before Post 300 broke out for five runs in the top of the third.
The River Bandits won the BP Invitational in Anchorage over the weekend for a third time in team history and the first time since 2013. Even though the Twins had been beaten just once in the last 12 games coming in to Wednesday’s game, Post 20 coach Robb Quelland knew it would take a great game to top Post 300.
Mose Hayes pitched six innings for the Twins, giving up five hits and seven runs — three earned. Hayes did not walk a batter and struck out five. Harrison Metz gave up two unearned runs on two hits in an inning.
“We didn’t play a perfect game,” said Quelland, whose squad made five errors. “Mose pitched fantastic other than a couple of hit batters.
“Any mistake, they’re going to capitalize on.”
Dakota Benner won for Post 300, going six innings and giving up two unearned runs on three hits while walking two and striking out five. Brandon Shafer gave up a run on a hit in the seventh.
For Post 20, Hayes went 2 for 4 while Jeremy Kupferschmid and David Michael also had hits. Shafer and Austin Lichty each had a pair of runs for the River Bandits.
Both coaches said their teams are learning valuable lessons right now. Quelland said his team has still had to perform despite all the time it takes to host a tournament. The Twins spent 14 hours at the diamond Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Post 300 is in the midst of a 30-day span where they will spend 24 nights in hotels.