On an opening day of upsets at the 66th Alaska Legion baseball tournament, the Post 20 Twins tried to spring one of their own, and on day two, a familiar name resurfaced for a big state tournament moment.
The seventh-seeded Legion Twins lost Friday 3-2 to second-seeded Dimond, but returned Saturday morning to beat Service 6-5 to stay alive in the state championship tournament at Mulcahy Stadium.
The local nine will need to continue winning if they wish to reach Tuesday’s championship game. Their journey continues today at noon with a win-or-go-home game against Kodiak, a team the Twins have gone 4-0 against this summer.
“It’s really exciting to see our bats come alive,” said Twins head coach Robb Quelland about Saturday’s nine-hit effort. “It’s contagious. We’re hitting a little bit and we still have players on the bench could be using. We have confidence in them, they’re ready to play in any moment, it’s nice to have that to lean on.”
Twins 6, Service 5
Saturday’s win-or-go-home contest against Service marked the 22nd time the two programs have met in the state legion tournament since 1983, according to legion media director Van Williams. The Twins victory made it five in a row they have beaten Service, evening the series up at 11-11.
Twins catcher Jacob Boze helped keep their season alive with a bases-clearing double that led the team to victory.
“Boze just clobbered it,” Quelland said. “We see as they gain more experience, they’re seeing more and more pitchers with plate time and he came through for us.”
The Twins rallied after falling into a 2-0 hole in the third inning, starting in the top of the fourth with an Andrew Carver sac fly and a Trapper Thompson single that tied it up.
David Michael led off the top of the fifth with a single and Metz bunted to reach base.
From there, Adam Brinster delivered the go-ahead run with a single up the middle.
Austin Asp drew a walk to load the bases, and Boze cleared them with a clutch double lined to left field for a 6-2 Twins lead.
“You talk about two complete opposite ends of the spectrum,” Quelland said about Brinster and Boze. “Brinster’s played for years and is regarded as one of the top pitchers of our high school conference.
“Boze has kind of been shoved into the role he’s in on the team … and he’s made some good plays as catcher.”
Boze is the second cousin of former Post 20 Twins star pitcher Marshall Boze, a 1988 SoHi grad who struck out a record 21 batters in a state tournament game that year but still came out with the loss. Boze went on to play in the majors with the Milwaukee Brewers in the mid-90’s.
The current Boze said he does not know his older family member that well, but said his mother told him Marshall was keeping track of the Twins results this weekend. Boze, in his first trip to the state tournament, said his bases-clearing double Saturday helped instill a lot of confidence in him.
“It’s really exciting,” Boze said. “I knew if I hit that ball, it’d make the team really excited … I just saw a fastball coming.”
Boze finished 1 for 3 on the day, while teammate Harrison Metz led the offense by hitting 2 for 3.
Service did not go quietly, however. In the bottom of the fifth, Chris Malagodi belted an RBI double against Brinster and Carsen Sandau brought in another run on a single to cut the gap to two.
Henry Helgeson kept the pressure on the Twins in the bottom of the sixth with a leadoff double, then scored on a passed ball to cut the gap to one run, but that would be all the Cougars would get.
Adam Brinster struck out six and walked one in six innings on the mound, allowing five runs (four earned) on eight hits. Quelland said Brinster’s six-inning outing helped the team in a big way as it allowed the other arms to rest up and be eligible to pitch Sunday with a big game on the line.
“These tournaments are all based on pitching and availability, and the reality is these games … you know you’ll lose your pitcher for the tournament if you pitch him too much,” Quelland said.
Asp earned the save with a perfect inning of relief, whiffing two along the way in his second straight closeout appearance.
The game wasn’t even the wildest of the weekend, however.
Top-ranked Juneau, a team that rolled to a 23-1 regular season record, lost 3-1 to eighth-ranked Kodiak, a team that wasn’t even supposed to be in the tournament to begin with. Kodiak slipped in after Wasilla and two other teams were disqualified prior to the brackets being created due to ineligible requirements. Wasilla, Palmer and Ketchikan failed to meet the May 31 deadline of purchasing team insurance, and were subsequently barred from competing in the state tournament, instead dropping into the Matson Invitational.
Dimond 3, Twins 2
Friday’s drama came in the dying moments. Down two runs in the top of the seventh against a stacked Dimond squad and with the bases juiced, a grounder by Harrison Metz was bobbled by the shortstop, scoring one Kenai run.
The potential tying run, however, was waved in but runner Jeremy Kupferschmid was tagged out in a tight squeeze at the plate to end the game.
It left the Twins empty-handed, relegated to the loser-out bracket.
The game-ending play at the plate wasn’t the way Quelland wanted to see his team’s weekend start.
“(Kupferschmid) is one of our fastest kids and we sent him home,” Quelland explained. “It was a bang bang play at the plate, and maybe with a different slide or different angle, he would’ve been safe.
“Half the crowd (called it) safe and half went out. You can second guess it all day long, but he’s the fastest kid on the team.”
The Lynx scored one in the first inning and two in the fifth to take a 3-0 lead, but the Twins stormed back in the seventh, starting with a one-out single by Jacob Boze.
Metz followed with a single and Kupferschmid reached on an error to load the bases for David Michael.
Michael knocked in a run on a single to right field, and after Trapper Thompson recorded the second out with a pop out, Brinster stepped up with a chance to tie it up, leading to the desperate play at the plate.
Kupferschmid’s attempt to score was a close call, Quelland said, as evidenced by the split reaction of the crowd, but with the loss in the books, the Twins were left to play in the elimination bracket.
“It’s a win or go home kind of game,” Quelland said. “The kids are ready to win, they’re pretty excited about it.”
Metz pitched a solid four innings against Dimond on the mound, giving up one unearned run on two hits and one walk, while striking out one. Overall, Twins pitching held Dimond to just three hits.
“He’s a stud,” Quelland said. “He’s a stud for his size and age, and we knew he’d come out, get maybe two innings more than expected.”
Once again, the Twins offense had a tough time against Dimond starting pitcher Jake Andresen, who tossed 2 1/3 perfect innings with three strikeouts before being pulled to save his pitch count. The Lynx are counting on Andresen to have good games later in the tournament.
“He’s just good,” Quelland admitted. “There’s nothing else I could say. He has our number.”
The big trouble came for the Twins in the bottom of the fifth, when reliever Logan Smith gave up two runs on four walks. Smith had one hit and failed to record a strikeout in 1/3 of an inning.
A single by Raythan Robbins loaded the bases with one out, and Smith walked Kaden Roettger and Andresen consecutively to force in runs for a 3-0 Dimond lead.
Asp came on and whiffed two in 1 2/3 perfect innings to close the game.
Andreson also knocked in the first run of the game on a single in the first. The run came after leadoff batter Adam Boyce reached on an error.
NOTES: Several Post 20 players were named to the state legion all-conference lists. Austin Asp was named All-Conference relief pitcher and a second-team infielder; Adam Brinster was named second-team starting pitcher and infielder; Logan Smith was named second-team utility player and starting pitcher; Jeremy Kupferschmid was named second-team outfielder.