The Legion AA Twins got off to a solid start on the first day of the Bill Miller Big Fish Wood Bat tournament at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, splitting a pair of games.
The Twins stymied the Eagle River Wolves 12-2 in their first game Thursday, then lost 10-1 to Auburn, Rhode Island.
The loss to Rhode Island snapped the Twins’ unbeaten streak of 11 games. The Twins are 11-5-1 overall this summer.
In other games at the tournament Tuesday, the Napolean (Ohio) River Bandits won twice with scores of 8-2 over Auburn (Rhode Island), and 9-6 over Eagle River.
Wednesday’s schedule begins with a 10 a.m. game between Eagle River and Auburn, and a 1 p.m. matchup between Napoleon and the Twins.
Against Eagle River, the Twins blew open a tight game with a five-run third inning, starting with the go-ahead run coming in on a wild pitch by Wolves pitcher Orazio Ramos. David Michael initially reached base on an infield single, then jogged home on a wild pitch to put Post 20 up 3-2.
The tournament provides an opportunity for Alaskan legion ball teams to play with wood bats, which give a very different experience compared to the usual aluminum bats, the least of presents the nostalgic crack of a ball off a bat.
Mose Hayes, who knocked in three runs on an RBI groundout in the first inning and a two-run single in the fifth, said this is his second time playing in the annual Kenai tournament. Hayes said while he prefers the production of the metal bats, there is still a particular fondness for the wood clubs.
“It’s a little different,” Hayes said. “You’re not going to get any pokes off the handle or the end of the bat, but it’s still baseball.”
Even with the wood bats, the Twins were able to feast on Eagle River’s pitching and defense, knocking out 10 base hits to Eagle River’s three and plating 12 runs, even while leaving nine men on base.
“Hitting is very contagious, and we have a team that likes to swing,” Hayes said. “It works out well.”
Twins head coach Robb Quelland said the team’s recent trip to Kodiak provided a good opportunity to teach the Twins that the long ball doesn’t always play well.
“We were working within what we were capable of doing,” Quelland explained. “That’s hard, because sometimes everyone wants to swing at the ball hard. Singles are okay. Walks and singles are fashionable.”
Their pitching did well too. Twins starter Harold Ochea threw all five innings for the Twins, striking out four and giving up two runs on three hits and two walks.
Competing against the Outside teams from Ohio and Rhode Island, Quelland thinks the Twins match up well with the bigger programs.
“We’ve got mature players on our team, and our pitching is all in order,” he said.
The Wolves played the Twins close in the early innings. An RBI groundout by Ryan Gray in the top of the third tied the game at 2 apiece, but Post 20 could not be held back.
Michael reached on an infield single, stole second base and reached third on a grounder from Hayes that turned into an error. Michael then scored the go-ahead run on the wild pitch.
Seth Adkins added to the lead with an RBI single to make it 4-2 Twins, and later, Jacob Boze drew a walk to load the bases and Davey Berger brought in a run on a fielder’s choice knock. Logan Smith and Jeremy Kupferschmid forced in runs on bases-loaded walks to push the lead to 7-2.
Hayes came through in the bottom of the fifth on a two-run single up the middle. The game ended on the run-rule thanks to a grounder by Smith that allowed him to reach on error, bringing in the 12th run of the game in the fifth.
Michael, Adkins and Belger all went 2 for 3 on the day, which Michael scoring three times.
In their second game against Rhode Island, the Twins were held to just two hits and one run. Rhode Island struck for nine hits and 10 runs, even while leaving 12 men stranded on the day.
Auburn’s Clyde Boutier pitched a gem, going all seven innings and giving up one unearned run on two hits and three walks, while ringing up five strikeouts.
Smith started for Post 20 and gave up five runs (all unearned) on five hits and four walks with three strikeouts. Smith lasted 3 2/3 innings before giving way to Davey Berger.
Berger went 2 2/3 frames in relief and gave up three runs (two earned) on two hits and four walks, while whiffing three. Jacob Boze and Chris Jaime got one out each in relief for the Twins, with Boze allowing two unearned runs.
The only Twins who could figure out Boutier was Kupferschmid and Harrison Metz, who got on with a bunt and single, respectively.