The American Legion Post 20 Twins hung on for a key, 7-6 league victory over South on Monday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai.
Post 20 then lost the second, nonleague game 12-5.
South, which has already clinched a berth to the state tournament, is on top of the American Division at 12-4 in the league and 16-9 overall.
The Twins move into third place in the American Division at 10-3 and 17-9-1 overall.
Post 20 still has a bunch of league games left in the final week of the season. Today, the Twins host Palmer at Seymour Park for a noon league game and 3 p.m. nonleague game.
Then, Post 20 has four more league games on the road this weekend — Friday against Service, two Saturday against Ketchikan and one Sunday against South.
The league standings are arranged by points — with four for a win and one for a loss. Because Post 20 has so many games loaded into this last week of the regular season, the Twins could still do anything from missing the state tournament to taking the top seed in the American Division.
To miss state, the Twins would have to go into a tailspin and Ketchikan (5-7 in league) would have to get hot. The top seed is available because the Twins now have the fewest losses of any team in the division with three, just ahead of South and Palmer with four.
Monday’s league game matched up two division heavyweights, but neither side had a clean game. Twins coach Robb Quelland said the important thing is his side got the win.
“It’s reminiscent of years past,” Quelland said. “Everytime we play South, it’s an interesting, competitive game.”
The game started an hour late due to morning showers, then South got off to a slow start, falling into a 7-0 hole after four innings due to wildness on the mound and missed opportunities.
Terren Sugita got the start and walked eight batters in four innings, with five of his seven earned runs getting on due to walks.
“That wasn’t his typical MO,” South coach Mike Webster said of all the free passes.
The Twins have been resourceful scoring runs all season. The trend continued with the seven runs coming on just three hits.
“We really work hard on that — working counts, not chasing balls and not helping the opposing pitcher by swinging at something you can’t do anything with anyway,” Quelland said.
Twins veteran starter Logan Smith showed his moxie by putting up zeroes the first four innings, leaving the bases loaded in the second and third innings.
“That makes it tough to win a ballgame,” Webster said.
When David Michael smoked a triple to the left-center gap in the fourth to score two, then scored on a grounder by Mose Hayes for a 7-0 lead, the Twins looked to have the game in hand.
“Most of us were thinking that was it,” Twins reliever Harrison Metz said. “We had a 7-0 lead and that’s hard to come back from. But they came back.”
The fifth turned into a nightmare inning for the Twins. Quelland said Smith ran out gas. He gave up five runs in the inning and Metz yielded one. All were unearned due to four errors in the inning.
With the lead suddenly down to 7-6 and South bringing on flame-throwing lefty Gage Webster, who went the final two innings without allowing a run or a hit while striking out three, a once comfortable game was now a nail-biter.
South got the tying run to third in the sixth with one out against Metz, but he got out of the inning on a pop fly and strikeout.
“Just our go-to guy,” Quelland said of Metz. “Talk about solid. No matter the situation or the opponent, Harry just comes in and does his job.”
Metz said that’s all he tries to do — his job. Even though the defense was struggling when he entered, he didn’t let that affect the way he pitched.
“I went in trying to get fly balls and ground balls, and not trying to strike anybody out,” Metz said.
While not happy with the fifth inning, Quelland was thrilled with the way the team was able to steady itself and get the win. He said the Twins have had an inconsistent schedule this season, but with so many games in the last week, the team now has a chance to get in to a baseball rhythm.
In the 12-5 nonleague loss, South’s bats came alive with 11 hits, with Grant Heiklia, Reid Brock, Sugita, Dylan Maltby and Brent Hultberg each collecting two.
Austin Delesine, Jimmy McGovern, Hultberg, Brock, Ricky Gatter and Josh Costello all pitched scoreless innings, while Damien Mohl gave up five runs in his inning.
For the Twins, Jeremy Kupferschmid, Hayes and Harold Ochea had hits. Tanner Ussing gave up four runs in 2 2-3 innings, while Jacob Belger gave up four runs — three earned — in 3 1-3 innings and Jacob Boze yielded four runs — one earned — in an inning.