Kenai’s Tanner Ussing puts down a bunt during an 11-3 win over the Palmer Pioneers on Friday, July 21, 2017, at Hermon Brothers Field in Palmer. (Photo by Jeremiah Bartz/Frontiersman)

Kenai’s Tanner Ussing puts down a bunt during an 11-3 win over the Palmer Pioneers on Friday, July 21, 2017, at Hermon Brothers Field in Palmer. (Photo by Jeremiah Bartz/Frontiersman)

Twins clinch berth at state

  • By Jeremiah Bartz
  • Saturday, July 22, 2017 1:45am
  • Sports

The defending state champion Post 20 Twins are returning to the state tournament.

The went on the road to defeat Palmer 11-3 on Friday and South 4-3 on Saturday to wrap up the eighth and final seed at the state tournament. The Twins face top-seeded Juneau at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday night at Mulcahy Stadium in Anchorage in the double-elimination event.

“Our goal at the start of the season was we wanted to get back to sitting at the big table with the big teams at state,” Twins coach Robb Quelland said.

The Twins have just two players on the team from last season — Paul Steffensen and Cody Quelland. But they finished 11-7 in the league and 17-13 overall to outdistance Ketchikan (9-9) for the final spot at state.

In the American Division, the Twins finished just two games behind champ Wasilla, yet were in fifth place in that division.

Saturday against South, Logan Smith bounced back with a fine effort on the mound after struggling last weekend against Wasilla. Smith went five innings and gave up two runs — one earned — on five hits while walking none and striking out three.

Quelland said Smith may have been a bit tired mentally and physically, but the time off helped him.

Jeremy Kupferschmid pitched the last two innings and picked up the win when the Twins took the lead in the seventh. Kupferschmid yielded an unearned run on two hits. Quelland said Kupferschmid’s ability to record outs late in games will be key at state, where the games go nine innings.

On offense, Steffensen was 2 for 4 with a run and Quelland was 2 for 3 with an RBI. Coach Quelland said the Twins are really leaning on those two players even though they are still relatively young by Legion standards.

“This team has bonded and really come together as a group,” Quelland said. “That takes a lot, because very few had played quite a bit of ball together before this season.”

Friday, the Twins found having four days off can feel like an eternity for a baseball player or coach.

Idle since Sunday, Kenai had to shake off some rust, but the Twins came through with six runs in the sixth inning of an 11-3 victory over the Palmer Pioneers at Hermon Brothers Field in Palmer.

“Baseball is all about timing and repetition,” Quelland said after the win. “No matter how hard you practice, you can’t get that game-time atmosphere.”

Kenai cashed in on 14 walks issued by the Palmer pitching staff. Eight of those walks came during Kenai’s six-run sixth. The Pioneers also hit a batter during the inning. Kenai entered the sixth with just a 3-1 lead, but blew the game open. Six of Kenai’s first eight hitters in the inning scored.

Leadoff hitter Steffensen scored a game-high three times in the win. Quelland and Seth Adkins added two runs each. Quelland drove in three runs. Kupferschmid added two RBIs.

Mose Hayes allowed only one hit over 4 1/3 worth of work and earned the win on the mound.

Kenai infielder Paul Steffensen catches a pop fly during an 11-3 win over the Palmer Pioneers on Friday, July 21, 2017, at Hermon Brothers Field in Palmer. (Photo by Jeremiah Bartz/Frontiersman)

Kenai infielder Paul Steffensen catches a pop fly during an 11-3 win over the Palmer Pioneers on Friday, July 21, 2017, at Hermon Brothers Field in Palmer. (Photo by Jeremiah Bartz/Frontiersman)

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