The American Legion Post 20 Twins and the Napoleon (Ohio) Post 300 River Bandits both went 2-0 on the first day of the Bill Miller/Lance Coz Wood Bat Tournament on Tuesday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai.
Napoleon, fresh off winning the Alaska 529 Midseason Classic in Anchorage for a record fourth time, defeated Bartlett 10-0 in five innings and the Buffalo (Minnesota) Post 270 Cobras 4-0.
The Twins followed by defeating Minnesota 6-5 and Bartlett 3-2.
The pool play portion of the tournament continues today at Seymour Park with Bartlett taking on Minnesota at 1 p.m. and the Twins facing off with Napoleon at 4 p.m.
Since they are both 2-0, the Twins and Ohio will then meet for the championship at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at Seymour Park. Minnesota and Bartlett will play for third place at 12:30 p.m.
The tournament is being held for the first time since 2019 due to the pandemic and also is being held for the first time since the death of Coz. Coz died in late September 2020 at 73. He was pivotal in starting the Twins program in 1975 and served as manager and head coach, winning state titles in 1991, 1995, 2012 and 2016.
Quelland left little doubt how much the tournament means to the Twins program in the game against Minnesota.
After the Twins took a 5-1 lead in the bottom of the third, Minnesota came back to cut the gap to 5-4 in the top of the fourth on Twins starter Hunter Williams. Quelland immediately went to ace Atticus Gibson, who pitched the final three innings and gave up a run on three hits while walking none and striking out three.
Williams gave up four runs — two earned — on three hits in his four innings.
“We went to Atticus because this tournament means a lot to this program and this tournament meant a lot to Lance Coz,” Quelland said. “When we get to this tournament, we want to play well.”
With younger players swinging wood bats, the tournament does not feature many balls driven past the outfielders.
“I told the guys you have to get used to playing 90 feet at a time,” Quelland said. “With how far they hit it, that’s how far they’re going to get.”
Games are often decided by pitching, the running game, bunting and the quality of the defense.
Minnesota coach Jack Strong said his team came up short on defense when the Twins rallied for five runs in the third.
“We loaded them up and then I think we had three infield ground balls score three runs,” Strong said. “When you don’t make the plays, that’s what happens.”
Daltyn Deborski was 2 for 4 with two runs for the Twins, while Jacob Belger was 2 for 4 and Simon Grenier had a pair of RBIs.
For the Cobras, Justin Johnson was 2 for 4.
Strong said his squad has been in Alaska since Thursday. Minnesota was sixth in the Alaska 529 Midseason Classic, going 1-3.
This is the first time the Cobras have been to Alaska. Strong is originally from Wasilla and always wanted to get the team up here, but a trip two years ago was canceled due to the pandemic.
Strong said the team has been having a great time, going halibut fishing in Homer on Monday and climbing Flattop Mountain while in Anchorage. They also will due sightseeing in the Valley.
“Some of those boys were about ready to die,” Strong said of the Flattop hike. “Coming from Minnesota, it’s flat. So we don’t have anything like that, but that’s typically a small one for Alaska.”
In the 3-2 victory over Bartlett, Quelland went to Gabe Smith on the mound after starter Charlie Chamberlain walked four and gave up an unearned run in an inning. Smith pitched six innings and gave up an unearned run on two hits while walking one and striking out five.
“As Lance preached, it’s a brotherhood,” Quelland said. “We just picked the next guy up and moved on.”
The Twins managed their three runs on five hits, with Gibson scoring twice and Williams scoring once.
Elijah Corwin pitched six innings for Bartlett, giving up three runs — two earned — on four hits.
In the 10-0 victory over Bartlett, the River Bandits received four scoreless and hitless innings from starter Wade Liffick. Dade Robinson then pitched the final inning, giving up a hit while keeping Bartlett of the board.
At the plate for Ohio, Tylor Yahraus was 3 for 4 with two runs, while Breven Deckrosh was 2 for 2.
In the 4-0 victory over Minnesota, Cobras starter Taylor Morrissette was able to keep it close, giving up runs in the second and fifth innings to send the game into the seventh inning at 2-0.
“He’s been lights out for us all year,” Strong said. “He’s pitched really well.”
River Bandits starter Jayden Jerger was up to the task, though, throwing seven scoreless innings and giving up just three hits.
In the top of the seventh, Ohio’s Breven Deckrosh had a two-run home run to give his team a nice cushion. Deckrosh, who was 2 for 3 with three RBIs, had two home runs in the Alaska 529 Midseason Classic.
“It was probably about a 400-foot shot,” Strong said of Deckrosh’s Tuesday blast. “It was impressive.”