The good news about the promising start for the American Legion Post 20 Twins is that the team still has a lot of room to get better.
Saturday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, the Twins lost the Alaska Legion league game 2-0 to Service before coming back for a 12-6 triumph in the nonleague contest.
The Twins then routed Ketchikan 22-5 in league play Monday in Anchorage.
The Twins are now 4-2 in the league and 6-4 overall.
Post 20’s league losses came to South and Service, a pair of teams that qualified for the Division I high school state tournament, with the Wolverines winning the title. Ketchikan also was a Division I state qualifier.
The Twins managed just one run against South and none against Service.
Post 20 is made up of players from Division II schools Soldotna, Kenai and Kodiak. Twins coach Robb Quelland said Division II schools generally have two or three pitchers that throw well, while Division I schools are a different story.
“That last two teams we lost to are Division I state qualifiers for high school, and they can throw six pitchers out every day who throw well,” Quelland said.
He said the Twins must adjust to seeing that level of pitching all the time.
“We’ve only been doing this 10 days,” Quelland said. “And we’re playing this well in 10 days? We’ll be good in 20 days.”
Service starter and winner Jake Rafferty in one of those pitchers who throws well. Rafferty went the first five innings, giving up two hits while walking three and punching out nine.
Sean Giffen and Hunter Christian each went a scoreless inning in relief, boosting the strikeout total to 11 of the 21 outs for the Twins.
“I think our pitching did great all the way around,” Service coach Willie Paul said. “Jake Rafferty, he’s been our dominant ace all year long. We needed a big game from him here.
“Our guys haven’t played a lot on a dirt field. So we were hoping for more strikeouts and not as many chances in the field.”
The Cougars took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fifth with a run off Twins starter and loser Malakai Olson. Christian doubled, then scored on a double by James Ivey.
Olson went four innings and gave up a run on three hits while walking one and striking out one.
Quelland said the pitching and defense were good enough to win. Center fielder Atticus Gibson cut down a runner trying to advance third on a sacrifice fly in the top of the fourth.
Catcher Jacob Belger dotted the game with defensive gems. In the top of the fifth, he picked two runners off second. In the sixth, he caught a runner trying to advance on a blocked pitch. In the seventh, he ranged far up the first base line to force out the runner at second after pitcher Hunter Williams had missed a diving attempt at a popped up bunt.
“He had more outs today than our shortstop did,” Quelland said of Belger. “That’s impressive.”
Williams went 2 for 3 for the Twins, while Coen Niclai and Ivey were 2 for 3 for the Cougars.
In the nonleague game, Service led 5-4 after four innings, but the Twins got four runs in the fifth and another four in the sixth to win.
Walks were a big part of the game. Twins pitchers Charlie Chamberlain, Gabe Smith and Riley Johnson combined to give up 11 hits, but walked just one. Service pitchers gave up six hits, but walked nine.
For the Twins, Chamberlain was 2 for 2 with three RBIs, Levi Mickelson had two runs, Johnson had two runs and Olson had two RBIs.
For Service, Owen Hickman was 2 for 4 with two runs, Rafferty had three RBIs, Kolby Jensen was 2 for 3 and Rilen Niclai was 2 for 4.
Against Ketchikan, the Twins had an 8-5 lead entering the seventh, when they erupted for 14 runs in the top of the inning.
Gibson pitched five innings for the win, giving up four runs on five hits while walking one and striking out five. Williams gave up a run in an inning, while Gabe Smith pitched a scoreless seventh.
Daltyn Deborski was 4 for 5 with four runs, Gibson was 3 for 4 with three runs, Smith had three runs, Williams was 3 for 5 with two runs and three RBIs, Belger was 3 for 5 with four runs and three RBIs, Simon Grenier was 2 for 6 with three RBIs, Levi Mickelson had two RBIs, and Johnny Brinner had two hits and two runs.