Five scoreless innings of crisp, defensive legion baseball eventually came to a head Wednesday afternoon at Coral Seymour Memorial Ballpark, and the drama didn’t disappoint.
The Post 20 Twins traded punches with the Post 33 Chugiak Mustangs in the sixth inning, scoring the gamewinning run on a successful rundown and steal of home to grab a 2-1 league victory.
The Twins also won the nonleague game 7-4 later in the day to take a doubleheader sweep over Chugiak, lifting the Twins to 4-0 in league play and 5-2 overall, while Chugiak dropped to 2-3 in the league and 3-6 overall.
Twins head coach Robb Quelland said his experienced hands helped the team when it counted most in a tight contest.
“When you get to that point (late in a game), someone’s going to blink,” Quelland said. “For us, it was a showcase of veteran leadership.”
Following six consecutive fly outs off Twins starting pitcher Adam Brinster, the Mustangs finally got a big hit in the top of the sixth when Trystan Costanios launched a solo home run past the left field wall, just inside the foul pole, to put Chugiak up 1-0. Costanios led the Mustangs with a 2-for-3 day.
The Twins were able to answer in the bottom half of the frame, starting with a crucial infield single by nine-hitter Harold Ochea, which set the stage for the top of the lineup to do something.
After a groundout by Jeremy Kupferschmid moved Ochea to second, Cody Quelland reached on a bunt single, and Steffensen chopped an infield grounder to shortstop that tied the game when Ochea beat the throw home.
With runners on the corners, the Twins set their plan in motion. Steffensen faked a steal to second and fell, and Chugiak catcher Costanios looked for the tag out, threw to first, only to have Quelland steal home on the play for the Twins 2-1 lead. Steffensen ultimately tagged back to first when Costanios hesitated.
“If I make it, I make it,” Steffensen said. “And it worked.”
After hitting 1 for 16 against Chugiak starter Sam Hall over the first five innings, Steffensen said the Twins batters were able to make the right adjustments against Hall when the sixth inning arrived.
“The third time through the order, we’re used to the pitcher, and once you get that third look, usually he’s tired,” Steffensen explained.
Hall finished a complete game for Chugiak but took the loss, giving up the two runs on four hits, while whiffing five on a tidy 83 pitches.
Brinster had a similarly effective day for the Twins, giving up three hits and three walks and the one homer, while getting five strikeouts over the 100-pitch outing.
Austin Asp earned the save with a one-hit, one-walk inning for Post 20, and ended the game on a groundout to Chugiak’s two-hitter Austin Bull with two runners on.
At the plate, Quelland, Steffensen, Brinster and Ochea each tallied a base hit for the Twins.
The first five innings were a clinic on clean defense and stout pitching for both teams. Quelland said that can typically be a recipe for a dull game, but it also provided a setup for the late drama.
“Usually at this level, we see a lot of poor plays, sloppy fielding, you’re almost bored with great pitching,” Quelland said. “But the battery for both teams was phenomenal.”
Hall and Constanios held things down as Chugiak’s battery while Brinster and catcher Cody Quelland worked for the Twins.
Twins infielder David Michael finished the day with six made outs — five from second base and one from shortstop — and outfielders Ochea and Jeremy Kupferschmid both had impressive fly out catches throughout the day.
Chugiak threatened in the top of the fourth by loading the bases with two outs, but a weak pop out by Bryce Collins to the pitcher ended the inning.
Brinster had gotten six straight Mustangs batters to fly out, including the first two in the sixth inning, when Constanios finally stepped up and connected hard enough to send the ball over the left field wall.
In the nonleague contest, Asp and Andrew Carver both hit 2 for 4 to lead the Twins, and Ochea knocked a two-run double.
Harrison Metz earned the win on the mound by giving up one run in four innings, allowing five hits and one walk and striking out three. Davey Belger, Austin Ceccarelli and Cody Quelland combined to give up one earned run in relief.