After a combined 27 hits and 20 runs had been scored on an increasingly sunny afternoon at the Kenai Little League fields, the Post 20 Twins and Post 21 Dimond Lynx were gridlocked in the 10th inning with two outs, Calvin Hills on third and reliever Joey Becher at the plate.
That’s when Hills decided to make his move, taking off and racing the pitch that landed in the dirt to the plate to score a walk-off steal of home and send the Twins to an 11-10 league victory over Dimond.
There was no denying the determination of the Twins, as Post 20 twice rallied from behind to tie the game, including erasing a seven-run deficit in the late going.
“It goes back to the maturity of our team,” said Twins coach Robb Quelland. “They know the game well enough to know when to go, how to read the other team.”
In the bottom of the 10th, Hills reached on a walk, then advanced on a ground-out by JJ Sonnen and stole third with one out. After Mason Prior’s put-out, Becher took his turn at the plate, but only got a few pitches in when Hills bolted from his station a few feet from the bag.
“It was a slow windup so I knew I could get there,” Hills said. “He never really looked over, and I got a big enough jump.”
The pitch traveled a bit wide, resulting in Lynx catcher Sean Corey having to make a quick turnaround to grab the ball and whip it back to the plate, but Hills managed to beat out the throw to clinch the win and create a mob scene in the home dugout.
The Twins finished off the day with a 9-8 nonleague win in the later seven-inning game.
The opening win also kept the Twins’ unbeaten league season alive at 13-0, while putting their overall mark at 18-1. Quelland said the team isn’t looking at the pristine mark, but rather at the top seed at the state tournament.
“It’s a luxury, it’s nice on paper, but our goal was never to be undefeated,” Quelland said.
“(Dimond is) a solid team, they’re probably just as good as any team at state,” Hills added. “But it’s all about the brackets. We want to get good seeding.”
Dimond dropped to 5-3 in league play, according to the legion website.
The 3 1-2 hour contest started with Dimond scratching out two early runs on RBI singles by Jake Anderson and Kaden Roetger. The Lynx added another run in the third inning to boost their lead to 3-0. The Twins notched 13 base hits to Dimond’s 14, pointing to the struggles of both pitching staffs.
However, Post 20 tied things up in the bottom of the third with an RBI single by Kenny Griffin and a two-RBI single by Hills.
The Twins trailed 10-3 after a brutal stretch in the top of the sixth inning that saw Dimond go through 13 batters and score seven runs on five hits and three walks, which helped load the bases on several occasions.
As the frame dragged on for what seemed an eternity, the first out was not recorded until Dylan Montagna was tagged out at home on a fielder’s choice play with Kenai’s Gavin Petterson on the mound. Petterson bobbled an innocuous bunt with no outs to load the bases, which exacerbated the long frame.
Dimond continued to tack on runs on RBI singles, a double, a bases-loaded walk, a bases-loaded hit pitch and a wild pitch from Petterson. Hills eventually entered in relief to face an 8-3 Dimond lead, and when the inning finally ended, the damage was done and the game seemed to be wrapped up in Dimond’s favor.
However, with this Twins squad, the game was never over.
Cody Quelland started the long rally back with an RBI single in the bottom of the sixth, then Griffin’s ground-out to score a run continued the comeback in the seventh. Mason Prior scored another run with a grounder, Sonnen scored on a passed ball and Quelland blasted a two-RBI double that cut the lead to 10-9.
“We feed off each other all the time,” Quelland said. “We came out sluggish again, our pitching wasn’t as sharp as it usually is, but these kids are like family.”
Griffin scored the tying run in the bottom of the eighth on a passed ball to set up the extra-inning drama. Griffin hit 3 for 5 to lead Post 20 on offense, while Steffensen, Hills, Covey and Quelland each got two hits apiece.
The Twins will test their unbeaten league record against South Post 4 in a battle between the top two teams in the American Division. South holds a 9-2 league record this summer. The games are a noon doubleheader at Kenai Little League fields.