The two American Legion teams that squared off Monday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park were in no rush to get home. Not with the race for the legion playoffs heating up.
Ultimately, the Eagles took home the victory 3-2 in 11 innings, outlasting the Twins in a gritty, low-scoring contest on a sweltering day. The Twins forged a split by winning the second, non league, game 7-1.
Both teams are scrambling for a playoff spot. Both are in tight division races to secure a top-four spot — the Twins are 6-3 and fourth place in the American Division, while West is 7-5 and fourth in the National Division.
That’s what made it big for the Eagles. West head coach John Wilson said walking away with the league victory is a big deal for a squad trying to stake its claim in the standings.
“It’s hard to come to Kenai and win, and this was a particularly hard game to win,” Wilson said. “Both teams played great.”
Wilson praised both team’s pitching staffs, particularly the bullpens that combined for six innings of scoreless relief.
Twins starter Logan Smith started and lasted 2 1/3 innings before exiting with soreness, having given up one earned run on three hits and three walks and three strikeouts. Opposite Smith was West starter Leland Wilson, who gave up two runs in 4 2/3 frames on two hits and wild nine walks, but Wilson also whiffed seven.
The Twins bullpen held together well, with Harrison Metz pitching 4 2/3 scoreless innings, scattering just three hits and walking one, and Mose Hayes finished with four frames of one-hit, one-run ball, striking out five and walking three.
West’s reliever Luke Langness spun 6 1/3 scoreless innings with just two hits and four strikeouts, holding to get the save.
Post 20 head coach Robb Quelland said there was a lot to take away for a Twins program that is beginning to build on a postseason run.
“They didn’t hit very well and we didn’t hit very well,” Quelland said. “But that just goes back to the quality of the pitchers.”
Quelland said in a low-scoring battle, it often comes down to who is on the mound, and how well the batters can adjust to the pitcher.
“Balls were put into play, we just didn’t hit well,” he said. “It’s kind of just the league we play in. Some days you see guys that throw 80 (mph) and some days you see guys that throw 50. The better teams adjust to that quickly.”
The Twins did well to put baserunners on, particularly as Wilson issued nine walks, but had trouble bringing runs in. The Twins stranded nine men, mostly in the first four innings.
Smith came through with the big hit for the Twins with a gametying two-run double in the bottom of the fourth that landed in the far reaches of left centerfield.
From there, however, neither team could capitalize on chances when presented with the opportunity. West put a runner in scoring position in the seventh but lost its chance on a pop fly that ended in a double play at second base.
The Twins were able to turn four double plays on the day, including the bottom of the 10th when a liner went back to Hayes on the mound to start a 1-6-3 double play.
In the bottom of the 10th, the Eagles turned a double play of their own when a foul pop up by Hayes landed with West’s catcher, who caught David Michael out at first on a pick off.
The Eagles caught their break in the top of the 11th when Luis Nunez drew a walk, then stole second, setting up Carter Stolpe to score him on an RBI single blooped into right centerfield.
Earlier, West was able to build up a 2-0 lead with runs in each the second and third innings. Ivan Tillman notched a two-out RBI single to plate the first run of the day, then an infield single by Langness scored a second run for West in the third.
Smith ended up leading the Twins on offense, going 2 for 4, while Jacob Boze and Metz each had a base hit.
In the second game, the Twins scored four runs in the second to build a 5-0 lead and hung on from there.
Harold Ochea pitched a gem in starting for the Twins with three scoreless innings of one-hit ball. Ochea struck out four with no walks.
Jeremy Kupferschmid pitched two scoreless frames of relief with just one hit, while whiffing one, and Seth Adkins gave up one run on three hits and one walk in two innings, striking out two.