After dropping out of the winners’ bracket of the American Legion state baseball championship tournament on July 28, the Post 20 Twins were looking at a long uphill battle that required flawless execution if they wanted to win another state title to go along with the three they already had.
With the spirit of the early settlers of the Last Frontier, they rolled up their sleeves and got to the task at hand. Day by day, the Twins kept winning, pulling through with wins against Fairbanks, Valley, Juneau and a rematch against South to find themselves playing on the final day of competition.
It wasn’t until just after 9 p.m. Saturday that the upset-minded Twins were finally beaten by state champion Chugiak, which had to play the local Kenai squad twice to claim the title.
Ultimately, the runner-up finish earned the Twins the right to play at the Northwest Class A Regional tournament, starting today in Logan, Utah.
Post 20 coach Robb Quelland said the five days worth of games left the team exhausted, but hungry for another chance to compete.
“The boys played that first game (against Chugiak) on adrenaline, and then the clock hit and they were pure wore out,” Quelland said. “There was nothing else they could’ve done to compete.”
The recent run off success that lead up to Saturday’s state championship showdown has left the local nine with supporters and well-wishers giving congratulations after the team returned to the Kenai Peninsula. The winning ways have even taken the team by surprise.
“We all expected to play football this week,” Quelland said with a laugh, noting that several Twins players are competing on the Soldotna and Kenai Central football teams. “(Soldotna) coach (Galen) Brantley called and said, ‘When are you guys gonna be back?’”
Football practice will have to wait. The Twins aren’t finished with their summer yet.
The Twins begin their charge in the Northwest Regional tournament at 2:30 p.m. ADT today against Wyoming. Quelland said hardly anything is known about the Wyoming team, but if the squad was good enough to get to this point, he knows Wyoming will come prepared.
“We’re walking in cold,” Quelland said. “(Wyoming is) just one of the state qualifiers, from a relatively small state (in population) like Alaska, but it doesn’t mean there are no quality teams coming out of there.”
As is to be expected at this level of play, the Twins will be relying on consistent pitching. Joey Becher, a key starter for the Twins, was recently named to the Alaska Legion AA Team of Excellence as one of nine starting pitchers. Tyler Covey, Justice Miller and Klayton Justice have all fit in as crucial presences on the mound as well, and with a low average of 1.4 errors per game this year, coach Quelland is confident of his defense.
“We feed off starting pitchers, and our defense commits minimal errors,” he said. “We’ve shown we can walk our way around the bases or hit our way to a win.”
Adding to Post 20’s remarkable run last week was the style in which they won. In the four games decided by a single run, the Twins went 3-1, and the team ended the entire week with a run differential of plus-1, a total score of 28-27 over seven games in the tournament.
Prior to Saturday’s championship finale that they lost, the Twins had won three straight games by one run. Talk about clutch play.
“That’s been our style all year,” Quelland said. “We haven’t been blowing teams out offensively. We’ve been waiting for that offensive bug to catch, and I think we’re still waiting.”
The strong finish is also appropriate in demonstrating the kind of presence that former coach Hector Rivera has had on the team. Since Rivera left to become the postmaster at the Cayey Post Office in Puerto Rico following a league game on June 23, his last with the team, the Twins ended with a flourish to put themselves into the state tournament, ending with a 9-3 finishing kick in league play to punch their ticket to state.
“He was a good mentor, and the boys respect him tremendously,” Quelland said. “They were lost when he was leaving, but we call it a brotherhood with the Twins.”
Along with former Twins player Dallas Pierren and general manager Lance Coz, Quelland has since taken hold of the reigns and seen the squad through to the end. With the run of strong play to finish the summer and a bounty of young players, Quelland said he hopes to see the players contend Outside more in the future.
“Hopefully this will become a benchmark for this team for the next four or five years,” Quelland said. “We have quality players in our program, we want them to grow and to have this become a tradition, not just something we do every three or four years.”