Shades of 2012?
After an opening day loss at the American Legion Baseball State Championships, the Post 20 Twins are halfway on the return journey to the title game after notching a crucial 6-3 elimination victory over the Valley team Thursday at Mulcahy Stadium in Anchorage.
Following in the footsteps of the 2012 Twins team, which took the Twins’ third state title by losing the first game then coming all the way back through the losers’ bracket, the current crop of sixth-seeded Post 20 players have won two straight after a first-day loss, and are now two wins away from Saturday’s championship finale. The survivor of the losers’ bracket will have to beat winner’s bracket victor Chugiak twice to take the crown.
“Every day we’re building, we’re a stronger team, and we’re growing as we go,” said Twins coach Robb Quelland.
The Twins will face a familiar foe Friday with a 10 a.m. matchup against South, 6-1 winners Thursday over Dimond. South was the team that relegated the Twins to the losers’ bracket Tuesday.
If Post 20 wins that game, then it will face Juneau, loser of Thursday’s winners’ semifinal round, in a 1 p.m. Friday matchup at Mulcahy.
As hopeful as the team is, Quelland said the Twins are taking each game one at a time before thinking ahead to what could be a very big Saturday.
“Everybody is formidable in this tournament,” Quelland said. “Nobody is looking past anybody, but I don’t think anybody feared us coming in.”
If the Twins win Friday’s morning game, the worst they can finish in the tournament is third place, which would place them into a matchup with the winner of the Matson Invitational tournament, which is made up of teams that did not qualify for the state tournament.
The winner of that game, plus the second-place finisher at state, will represent Alaska at the NWCART regional event from Aug. 7 to 11 in Logan, Utah. The state champion goes to the Northwest Regional from Aug. 5 to 9 in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Quelland said he was pleased with the errorless nine-inning game the Twins pieced together Thursday, helped by starting pitcher Joey Becher.
Becher — one of nine Team of Excellence pitchers to be voted by the coaches — earned the win on the mound with six shutout innings, giving up only three hits and getting six strikeouts.
Jake Conver led the Twins at the plate by hitting 3 for 4 with two RBIs. Josh Darrow and Justice Miller also added two hits apiece.
Darrow opened the game with a leadoff single, then was brought home to score the first run on a triple by Kenny Griffin, who also made the Team of Excellence at catcher.
“We’ve been working hard the last few days with timely hitting, and it’s paying off,” said Quelland, who added that additional time in the batting cages has sharpened the Twins’ hitting.
The Twins added a second run in the top of the first when the Valley catcher dropped a third-strike pitch to Tommy Bowe, who was thrown out at first base, allowing a run from third by Griffin.
Post 20 added two more runs in the top of the third, starting with an RBI single by Conver and finishing with Justice Miller scoring on a passed ball.
Conver added another RBI single in the seventh frame, as the Twins scored two to push the lead to 6-0.
Valley finally responded with three runs in the bottom of the eighth, as a leadoff single by Matthew Palmer sparked a sequence that included an RBI single by Cooper McLaughlin and RBI groundouts by Dalton McHugill and Josh Finch.
However, Tommy Bowe replaced Calvin Hills on the mound and threw a single pitch to end the inning. Bowe ended up finishing the final frame on the mound, giving up no hits or runs with two strikeouts.
Twins getting honorable mention in Team of Excellence voting were Josh Darrow in the infield and Tommy Bowe in the infield.