The Alaska 20 defeated East 18-11 on Sunday at the Soldotna Little League fields to bolster the home nine’s chances of making the Alliance Baseball League state tournament.
After losing the nonleague game 9-8, Alaska 20 is now 4-4 in league play and 5-17 in nonleague play, while East is 1-6 and 5-16.
Alaska 20 will finish up league play today with a pair of games at Bartlett — 1:30 p.m. against Juneau and 4 p.m. against Bartlett.
“It’s going to come down — good, bad or indifferent — to a lot of tiebreakers,” Twins coach Robb Quelland said of spots in the state tournament. “I think there will be a lot of teams at the 6-4 or 5-5 mark.”
The top two in each division, plus the next best four records in the league, make the playoffs. After Sunday, Alaska 20 is in second place in the American Division behind South’s 6-2 mark, but also in the division Eagle River is at 4-2 and Palmer is at 3-3. Service and Bartlett are both at 2-4.
If Alaska 20 can’t get that top-two slot in the American Division, National Division teams like Chugiak (4-3), Dimond (4-2) and North Pole (3-4) also are threats to take a state spot from Alaska 20.
Then there’s the big wild card in Juneau, which had its first games of the season Monday. Juneau will fit in all 10 league games, plus a few nonleague games, by the end of Sunday.
All Alaska 20 can do at this point is win, and the local nine did that Sunday by breaking out on offense.
Alaska 20 took a 9-2 lead after three innings. When East came back and cut the deficit to 9-6 after the top of the fourth, Alaska 20 scored four runs each in the bottom of the fourth and fifth to retake control of the game.
Alaska 20 had 14 hits in the contest, a nice display for an offense that has been inconsistent this season.
“We’re very young,” Quelland said. “It really starts with the top of the lineup. If that’s doing well, the bottom of the lineup follows.”
Harrison Metz went 4 of 6 with four runs and two RBIs from his leadoff spot, while Tanner Ussing was 2 for 4 with two runs and three RBIs from the No. 4 hole. At No. 2, Mose Hayes had a run and an RBI, while Sam Berry was 1 for 3 with a run and two RBIs batting third.
Big performances in the rest of the lineup came from Jacob Belger (3 for 5 with two runs and an RBI), Davey Belger (2 for 2 with three runs and an RBI), Nick Wehrstein (three RBIs) and Karl Wickstrom (two runs).
Quelland said Metz is coming back from an injury that kept him sidelined for the first month of the season.
“Hitting is all about timing,” Quelland said. “He hasn’t been struggling, he just hasn’t seen enough pitches to get where he needed to be at. (Sunday) he had a breakout day.”
Berry allowed two runs in two innings, while Metz let in six runs in 1 2-3 innings.
Ussing and Davey Belger then settled things down. Ussing gave up three unearned runs in two innings, while Belger kept East off the board for 1 1-3 innings.
“We don’t even call it a bullpen,” Quelland said. “We just pitch by committee in a lot of these games.”
In the 9-8 nonleague loss, Alaska 20 led 4-1 after the third inning and 8-5 heading into the seventh. East notched four runs in the top half of the inning to take the victory.
Davey Belger, for 1 2-3 innings, and Jacob Belger, for 2-3 of an inning, were able to keep East of the board. But East was able to score enough runs against Daltyn Deborski and Jackson Duperron to take the win.
Alaska 20 got five hits in the game, with Hayes leading the way by going 2 for 4 with two runs. Berry and Jacob Belger added hits, while Charles Tappen was 1 for 1 with two runs and an RBI.