Twins fall to Chugiak in state semifinals

The American Legion Twins fell to Service 8-7 on Monday in the semifinals of the state tournament at Mulcahy Stadium in Anchorage.

The Twins (17-15 overall) had made the semifinals by winning the Alyeska Pool, one of two four-team pools in the round-robin portion of the tournament. After starting with a 3-2 loss to No. 3 South on Thursday, the No. 7 Twins held off elimination by defeating No. 2 Chugiak 6-4 on Saturday and No. 6 Bartlett 11-1 on Sunday to finish 2-1 and top the pool due to tiebreakers.

The trip to the final four caps off a season in which Soldotna, Kenai Central and Kodiak high schools — the three schools that combine to make the Twins — all made the Division II state baseball tournament, with the Stars winning it all.

“It’s a journey that started back in March at the high school gyms of the combined three schools,” Twins coach Robb Quelland said of Soldotna. “Here we are, one of the top four teams in the state of Alaska.”

All season long, Quelland said the Twins were solid pitching and playing defense, but troubles on offense led to a lot of close losses. The Twins coach said that pattern held against No. 5 Service as the Twins chased a fifth state title.

“It was kind of a summary of our year,” Quelland said. “We pitched well and played good defense, but we didn’t have the timely hits we needed to win the game.”

The Twins entered the bottom of the seventh trailing 8-6 and rallied. Hunter Williams started the inning with a single, then Gabe Smith walked to chase Mustangs reliever Mike Sculley.

Jacob Belger greeted Landon Martindale with a single to load the bases, but then Martindale steadied. He got Andrew Pieh to pop out to second, got Charlie Chamberlain on a fielder’s choice grounder that scored Williams and moved Smith to third, then struck out Nate Mowery to end the game.

“They had good pitchers out there and we didn’t hit like we can,” Quelland said.

Ultimately, the Twins couldn’t overcome a seven-run fourth inning by the Cougars. The first four batters reached in the inning to chase starter Malakai Olson, then reliever Johnny Brinner allowed three runs of his own.

“Hindsight is always 20-20. Should I have gotten him earlier? We’ll never know,” Quelland said. “They say pitching coaches are too early or too late, but rarely on time.”

Olson gave up five runs on six hits in three innings, while Brinner gave up three runs on seven hits in four innings. Owen Hickman got the win for Service, giving up six runs — four earned — on six hits in five innings.

Service’s Coen Niclai led Service’s 13-hit attack by going 3 for 4. For the Twins, Williams was 2 for 4 with three runs, Belger was 3 for 4 with a run and three RBIs, Pieh was 2 for 4, and Chamberlain had two RBIs.

Quelland said the program is on the cusp of greatness, with lots of young talent ready to break through.

“I’d like to thank the coaches, families, community and Oilers,” Quelland said. “I’m looking forward to next year.”

Twins 11, Bartlett 1

The Twins were dominant Sunday against Bartlett, which was full of momentum after victories over South and Chugiak.

Williams headed up the effort with a complete-game masterpiece on the mound. He allowed just one run on four hits while walking one and striking out six. He also found the energy to go 2 for 3 with three runs and an RBI at the plate.

Williams comes to the Twins from Kodiak. Quelland gave credit to families in the central peninsula community for making it possible for Williams to spend the summer with the Twins.

“He was just hitting his marks,” Quelland said. “He’s confident, he knows what he has in his skill set, and he trusted the team behind him.”

Twins pitchers walked just three batters in the three pool play games.

“One of our focuses coming into the tournament, we said, ‘You can’t defend a walk,’” Quelland said. “These are all quality teams. They like to steal bases and do hit and runs once they get runners on. A high percentage of walks score.”

Meanwhile, Bartlett pitchers Carl Colavecchio, Wyatt Rust, Luke Helgeson and John Grantier had no luck stopping the Twins bats.

Post 20 banged out 13 hits in the game and also took nine walks. That steady offense led to three runs in the first, then three more in the fourth for a 6-1 lead. The Twins then had one in the fifth, three in the sixth and one in the seventh.

Quelland has said all season that the Twins pitching and defense is fine, but the hitting was lacking as Post 20 players — all from small schools — adjusted to big-schools pitching.

“Finally, as a team, the players are seeing enough of this pitching to adjust,” he said. “It’s not baffling them any longer.”

Pieh led the attack by going 3 for 5 with four RBIs and a run. Also for Post 20, Atticus Gibson was 2 for 3 with three runs and an RBI, Smith was 2 for 3 with three runs and an RBI, and Chamberlain was 2 for 3 with a run and an RBI.

“It was just a team win,” Quelland said. “There were a lot of very timely hits to move runners when they needed to be moved.”

Twins 6, Chugiak 4

Saturday, the Twins rallied for four runs in the top of the seventh inning to defeat Chugiak.

Gibson came through in a big game for the Twins again.

“I can’t say enough about the young man,” Twins coach Robb Quelland said. “He is as solid as it comes.

“The poor kid has only pitched in big games. He never gets a chance for easy games for the stats. He has the right attitude and he gives 100% effort every time he goes out.”

Gibson pitched all seven innings, giving up four runs — two earned — on seven hits while striking out four and walking two. At the plate, he was 1 for 2 and scored three of the team’s runs.

In the top of the first inning, Gibson gave the Twins a 1-0 lead when he reached on an error and scored on a passed ball.

Chugiak then got four runs in the first three innings while Cam Costanios held the Twins offense in check.

Costanios went 5 1-3 innings and gave up two runs — one earned — on four hits while walking four and striking out six.

“We went against South’s best pitcher and Costanios was right up there in the same area,” Quelland said.

The Twins were able to cut the gap to 4-2 in the fifth when Gibson walked and scored on a double by Smith.

“Gabe Smith seems to be hitting the ball very well, but not getting on base,” Quelland said. “Today, he finally came through with a hard double that scored a runner from first base.”

Even with that double, Quelland said the Twins had seen enough of Costanios and wanted the pitcher to reach his pitch count so he had to leave the game.

Quelland said Chamberlain and Simon Grenier combined to see 14 pitches to start the sixth and get to reliever Connor Lanehart.

Down 4-2 headed to the seventh, the Twins rallied against Lanehart. Gibson and Williams started the inning with singles, then Gibson scored on a sac fly by Belger.

After Smith walked, Pieh doubled to tie the game and put runners on second and third. Quelland said Pieh, who hit a walkoff home run for Soldotna High School in the state semifinals, does well in late game situations.

“It takes him a little time to get warmed up,” he said. “He made two great plays in the outfield where he was able to track balls hit into the gaps.”

Chamberlain then reached on an error to score Smith and give the Twins the lead. Grenier hit a fielder’s choice grounder to bring home Pieh as an insurance run.

That insurance was not needed as Gibson retired Chugiak on three quick pitches in the bottom of the seventh.

More in Sports

Cook Inlet Academy junior Ian McGarry battles for a rebound against Birchwood Christian on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, at Cook Inlet Academy just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
CIA’s Ian McGarry gets 1A boys Player of Year

Cook Inlet Academy sophomore Ian McGarry was named the Class 1A boys… Continue reading

The Kenai Central cheerleading team. Back row, left to right: Caitlyn Martin, Sylvia McGraw, Ayla Tallent, Sarah Baisden, Genesis Trevino, Malena Grieme, Maya Montague, Taya Swick and Cali Holmes. Front row, left to right: Ella Romero, Brooklynn Reed and Makenize Harden. (Photo provided)
Kenai cheerleaders win 3rd straight state title

The Kenai Central cheerleading squad won its third straight Division II March… Continue reading

Kenai River Brown Bears goalie Nils Wallstrom celebrates winning a shootout over the Fairbanks Ice Dogs on Saturday, March 25, 2023, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Brown Bears sweep Ice Dogs, move into 3rd place

The Kenai River Brown Bears earned a two-game sweep over the Fairbanks… Continue reading

Bears top Dogs, move into 4th place

The Kenai River Brown Bears defeated the Fairbanks Ice Dogs 4-3 on… Continue reading

Kenai girls take 4th, Kenai boys take 6th at state

The Kenai Central girls basketball team took fourth place and the Kardinals… Continue reading

Chad Anderson of Kasilof and Allie Ostrander guide Everett Anderson, 3, to the finish line Wednesday, July 19, 2017, at the Salmon Run Series at Tsalteshi Trails. Getting the free ride on Chad’s shoulders is Ben Anderson, 2. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Ostrander, Gemmell make Alaska High School Hall of Fame

Allie Ostrander, a 2015 graduate of Kenai Central High School, and Joshua… Continue reading

Kenai Central High School esports players participate in a practice match of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate ahead of a scheduled game at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Esports Week 6: Nikiski is 1st local team to earn playoff spot

Each of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s esports teams had a… Continue reading

Kenai girls, boys move to 4th-place games

The Kenai girls and boys basketball teams both notched victories Friday at… Continue reading

Bears host Ice Dogs, renew fight for playoff spot

The Kenai River Brown Bears begin a two-game series with the Fairbanks… Continue reading

Most Read