The American Legion Twins are no strangers to working back through a double-elimination bracket, so after losing game one of the Legion State Baseball tournament on Tuesday, the challenge fit right into their wheelhouse.
The Post 20 crew is looking to stage a complete comeback by winning a state championship via the loser’s bracket, the same way they did it in 2012. This year’s squad is even facing the same opponent, Chugiak Post 33, as their 2012 counterparts did for the championship.
Friday at Mulcahy Stadium in Anchorage, the Twins swept a crucial pair of elimination games, avenging Tuesday’s loss to South with a 5-4 victory in 11 innings over the Wolverines, then playing on to win a 3-2 game over Juneau in the afternoon.
All that remains is Saturday’s championship game with top-seeded Chugiak, which went 17-1 in the regular season this year and also claimed the high school state title. The title game is slated for 3 p.m., and if the Twins win, an “if-necessary” game is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. due to the double-elimination format.
For those wishing to watch the action, a live stream will be available at alaskalegion.com.
“We’re not surprised we’re here for tomorrow,” said Twins coach Robb Quelland. “The boys packed for the whole week, this is an expectation.”
Saturday’s state champion qualifies for the Northwest Regional tournament, August 5 to 9 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The runner-up team will play in the NWCart Regional, August 7 to 11 in Logan, Utah.
In an interesting twist, both games Friday were won on a bases-loaded walk. In the first game, Kenny Griffin scored the go-ahead run on a walk by J.J. Sonnen. In the second, it was Michael Swoboda scoring the winner with a walk by Josh Darrow.
Quelland said the team, which has been working through the comeback all while sleeping on a gym floor in Anchorage, has put together an “incredible team effort.”
“We’re playing with house money,” he said. “It’s exciting, it’s the championship, it’s at Mulcahy, but if we lose our focus, it negates the whole reason why we’re here.”
After failing to draw a single walk against Fairbanks on Wednesday, Quelland said he was pleased to see the squad exhibit patience at the plate and work the count to score the winning runs in both games.
“We didn’t get too low or too high,” he said. “Right now, we’re just letting the boys be young men.”
Quelland said in order to beat the mighty Mustangs, the Twins will require pinpoint pitching and timely hitting.
“Our pitchers have to hit their locations,” Quelland said. “This is a good hitting team. We have to play our game, we need to just go out there and have fun and have an excellent game.”
In Friday’s early game, Tommy Bowe pitched well in relief with three scoreless innings, giving up only one hit. Bowe also led the charge at the plate with a home run in the sixth inning, extending the lead to 4-2.
“It’s all about being the next man up,” Quelland said. “We’ve moved some of the reserve players in the game, and they’ve stepped up.”
Matthew Daugherty started for the Twins and tossed eight innings, giving up three earned runs on nine hits, while walking no one.
After Bowe’s homer, South closed the gap with a run in the seventh and a tying homer by Sladen Mohl in the bottom of the eighth.
After ending the 10th inning with a double play, the Twins loaded the bases at the top of the 11th with a single from Griffin, a walk to Justice Miller and a walk to Swoboda, setting up the winning walk to Sonnen.
In the second game of the day, Bowe came up big again at the plate, smacking a pair of doubles to lead the Twins.
After Bowe hit a double in the top of the third, he scored on a sacrifice fly by Jake Conver to push the Twins lead to 2-0. Juneau responded by plating two runs in the bottom of the frame.
Tyler Covey pitched six innings, giving up two runs on five hits and walking four, while striking out three. Miller came on in relief to finish with three shutout innings, giving up no hits and striking out two.