Twins split with Valley in head coach Rivera’s final games as head coach

The American Legion Twins came back from a 7-0 deficit to defeat the Valley team 10-9 and send head coach Hector Rivera out a winner Tuesday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai.

The Twins lost the first game of the doubleheader, which was scheduled for seven innings, 6-3 in 10 innings.

Since the first game was league and the second was nonleague, the Twins are now 2-4 in the league and 6-4 overall. The Valley squad moves to 4-1 in league play.

Rivera is leaving the Kenai Peninsula to be the postmaster at the Cayey Post Office in Puerto Rico.

“I’m happy for the opportunity the Twins gave me,” he said. “I enjoyed every bit of it.

“This is a good program that should enjoy the support of the community.”

Rivera has been a coach with the Twins for the past five years, serving as head coach for the past three years.

The former Kenai postmaster worked in Soldotna for three years and Kenai for seven.

“It’s tough. There are so many friends here,” Rivera said as parents and players were wishing him good luck. “Same at the office. The people there are like my extended family.”

For a while Tuesday, it was looking like Rivera could have a less than satisfying finale.

The first game was a pitching duel between Valley’s Dalton McHugill and the Twins’ Joey Becher.

Each went seven innings and gave up two runs, with McHugill’s runs being unearned.

McHugill gave up four hits, walked two and struck out seven, while Becher gave up five hits while walking three and striking out three.

Klayton Justice kept Valley off the board for two more innings, but ran into trouble in the top of the 10th and ended up yielding four unearned runs on a hit.

Sam Loyer wrapped up the win for Wasilla, pitching three innings and giving up a run and no hits.

Logan Sanders was 3 for 5 with two runs for Valley, while Buddy Dale was 2 for 5 with two RBIs.

Rivera said the Twins had multiple opportunities to win the game but couldn’t come up with clutch hits.

“Our bats need to wake up,” he said. “Our team doesn’t know how good they really are.”

Valley coach Gary Skan also likes his squad’s potential.

“This team will be somebody to contend with as long as they are focused and ready to play,” he said.

Valley proved both sides of Skan’s point in the second game, jumping out to a 7-0 lead after two innings on Twins starter Tyler Covey.

But Twins pitchers JJ Sonnen and Calvin Hills allowed the home nine to work its way back into the game.

Sonnen went four innings and gave up two unearned runs, while Hills pitched a scoreless seventh inning for the win.

“They let way down,” Skan said of his team. “I tried to tell them that even though it’s a nonleague game, they still need to focus.”

Brendan Jakeimiec pitched the first three innings and gave up five runs, just three earned, while Blake Marks pitched the final 3 2-3 and also gave up five runs, but just one was earned.

With the score tied at 9 in the bottom of the seventh and two outs, Mason Prior batted for Matthew Daugherty and drew a walk.

Prior promptly stole second. He then stole third, and when the catcher threw wildly to third, Prior scampered home with the winning run.

“It’s pretty special,” Prior said of winning the game for Rivera. “I’ve had him as a coach for three years now and I’ve learned a lot from him.”

While Prior’s stocky build does not advertise him as a running threat, he said stealing bases is relatively common for him.

“Our coaches kept motivating us,” Prior said about being down 7-0 in the first two innings. “They told us to keep our energy up like it was a league game.”

Jake Conver reached base all three times for the Twins and scored three runs, while Terrance Slats had two RBIs and Kyle Johnson had two hits.

For Valley, Blake Marks was 4 for 5 with three runs, while Robert Cottingham had a pair of hits, Dale had a pair of runs, and Matt Palmer and Jeffrey Forster had two RBIs.

The Twins host Chugiak at Twins in a noon league game and 3 p.m. nonleague game Saturday at Seymour Park.

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