The American Legion Twins split with Palmer on Sunday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park, but picked up a key league victory in the first game.
The Twins defeated the Pioneers 4-1 in the league contest before falling 13-4 in the nonleague affair.
Post 20 moves to 9-6 in the league and 14-13 as the local nine chases a spot in the state tournament.
With three league games left to play, the Twins are in third in the American Division with 42 points. Dimond leads with 53, South has 43 and Service has 40.
The Twins and Service make up a postponed game Tuesday at Seymour Park at 1 p.m. Service is leading 2-0 in the bottom of the third inning.
The top three teams from each division make state, plus the next best two in the league.
“With three games left, we need to be competitive in all three to make it to state,” Twins head coach Robb Quelland said. “Two of three would be nice, but we know we need at least one of three to make sure we qualify for state.”
The Twins got past a big hurdle in getting the league victory over Palmer. Although the Pioneers are now 0-10 in the league and 6-15 overall, the squad is made up of players from Palmer and Colony high schools, both of which qualified for the state tournament this year.
Palmer head coach Tim Rockey said this has been the kind of the year where his squad can’t buy a clutch hit or any good fortune. In the first game, the Pioneers struck out just twice but only ended up with four hits.
“We put the ball in play, we just were not lucky,” Rockey said.
That was the plan all along for Twins starter Harrison Metz, who worked four innings and gave up a run on two hits while walking and striking out nobody.
“I was going up there thinking throw strikes and let the defense do the work,” said Metz, who will be a sophomore at Homer High School.
Not only did the Twins defense not make an error, but Rockey credited infielder Paul Steffensen and an outfielding crew led by center fielder Jeremy Kupferschmid of robbing his team of base hits.
“He’s not overpowering anyone,” Quelland said of Metz. “There’s that old adage that pitching is all about speed — at one end of the spectrum or the other.”
Palmer started strong, with Zach Satterly doubling to score Kolten Ketchum in the top of the first. The Twins answered quickly in the bottom of the frame, when Paul Steffensen led off with a single and scored on a ringing single by Adam Brinster.
Metz and Trace Severson, who pitched 5 2-3 innings and gave up four runs on seven hits, then settled in. Another run did not cross the plate until the fifth.
Brinster walked with two away, then Austin Asp doubled for a 2-1 game. Pioneers right fielder Jeremy Allen dove trying to record the out on Asp’s double, but the ball got by him.
Another key defensive play happened in the sixth, when Metz led off with a single then Trapper Thompson turned a well-placed bunt into a single.
“We put pressure on teams,” Quelland said. “People think it is easy covering a bunt. It’s one of the hardest plays in baseball.”
That bunt put runners on first and third. Metz would score on a double steal, while Steffensen singled in Thompson for a 4-1 lead.
Austin Asp pitched three innings of shutout ball to hammer down the win.
Quelland said it was significant the team made no mental mistakes in closing out the win. Late errors have cost the Twins lately, and Quelland said this win shows his squad is maturing.
“We have struggled to keep our focus the entire seven innings,” Metz said. “We did it today.”
Satterly had two of the four hits for Palmer. Rockey gave Ketchum credit for a solid game behind the plate. The coach said Ketchum is the team’s best in the infield or outfield, but he stepped up to catch when the top catchers were not available. The coach added his shortstop Ben Alley, second baseman Kaden Ketchum and third baseman Carson McLaughlin are all going into their sophomore years in high school, yet combined to make just one error.
In the second game, Palmer flexed some of the talent that got Palmer and Colony high schools to state, as the Pioneers banged out 14 hits.
Allen led the way by going 4 for 4 with three runs and two RBIs, while McLaughlin was 2 for 3 with two runs and three RBIs, Satterly was 2 for 5 with two runs and two RBIs, and Caleb Engst was 2 for 3. Allen also got the win by giving up three runs — one earned — in six innings.
“We saw what they could do the first time we played them,” Quelland said. “The coaching staff remarked how well they hit the ball one through nine. They’re all capable of putting the ball in play.”
Harold Ochea gave up eight runs — three earned — in 2 2-3 innings, while Kupferschmid threw a scoreless 2 1-3 innings and Thompson gave up five runs in two innings.
Kupferschmid was 2 for 5 with two runs at the plate, while David Michael was 3 for 4.
“It was a tough loss, but we got the game we wanted,” Quelland said.