After waiting out a month-long rain delay, the American Legion Twins and Service Cougars finally finished what they started way back on June 15 with the Twins taking a tense 4-3 victory Tuesday over Post 28 Service at Coral Seymour Memorial Ballpark.
Post 20 completed the doubleheader sweep with a 10-0 win in the second, nonleague, contest.
But it still may not be decided just yet.
The final result of the league game fell under protest by Service after a lineup disagreement in the top of the seventh was settled by the umpire’s decision to not allow a substitution by Cougars head coach Willie Paul.
“It’s just a different interpretation of the rules,” said Twins head coach Robb Quelland. “It’s what we know based on factual information.”
The disagreement began as Service was coming up to bat in its final attempt to make up a one-run deficit. Paul argued that he should be allowed to pinch-hit Andrew Jaidinger, who was the June 15 starting pitcher for the Post 28 Cougars, in place of original designated hitter Sean Giffen in the No. 2 spot in the lineup.
However, because Jaidinger had already made his exit off the mound and was no longer in the game, Quelland argued that he should be unavailable to use, noting that the use of a designated hitter implies that the pitcher’s spot in the lineup is essentially tied in with the DH.
Paul declined to comment on what his interpretation was, but was adamant about the switch.
After a delay of approximately 10 minutes to sort it out, the head umpire did not grant Service the substitution, forcing Giffen to take to the plate. The call ended up working in Service’s favor, as Giffen led off with a single on the second pitch he saw from Twins reliever Adam Brinster.
However, Post 28 could not make a comeback after Ronan Klancher flied out and Henry Helgeson ended the game with a double play on a dropped third strike that also forced out Giffen at second base.
The two teams are battling hard for the final postseason positioning for the state tournament. If the win stands, the Twins are third in the standings at 10-6 in league play and 15-13-1 overall, while Service is fourth at 9-5 and 13-10.
Quelland said if the league decides to grant Service its appeal, so be it.
“I’m okay with that,” he said. “Let them come back here and try it again.”
Brinster ended up with the win on the mound for Post 20, pitching the last four innings and giving up a run on three hits and four strikeouts, with just two walks. Twins starter Logan Smith didn’t pitch Tuesday but did make the start on June 15 and went 2 2/3 innings and gave up six walks and one hit while whiffing four.
Prior to the late drama, the Twins had rallied from a 2-0 deficit — which was the score when the game was suspended June 15 due to a persistent rain — to score four runs with savvy base running.
When Service catcher Chris Malagodi attempted to catch Austin Asp stealing second base in the bottom of the fourth, the throw allowed Austin Ceccarelli to score from third for a 2-1 game, then Asp scored on an RBI single by Logan Smith down the third-base line that barely went fair for a tie game.
Kupferschmid led off the bottom of the fifth with a single and got to second on a sacrifice bunt by Trapper Thompson. Kupferschmid then darted for a steal of third, but the throw from Malagodi to third baseman Henry Helgeson trickled into the outfield for an error, allowing Kupferschmid to make it home for a 3-2 Twins lead.
The Cougars tied it in the top of the sixth with a run-scoring single by Jaren Childs. Twins catcher Logan Smith ended the inning by picking off Malagodi on an attempted steal of second.
David Michael then scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the frame, starting with a throwing error by Service shortstop Cobey Cupp that allowed him to reach base. After getting to second on a groundout, Michael tried swiping third, but the throw to catch him went by the glove of Helgeson again, leaving Michael to easily score home.
“We are built for this type of baseball,” Quelland explained. “We’re built for small ball, we rely on our speed and ability, and creating havoc on the base paths.
“It’s evident when you see the older players out there leading the way, guys like David Michael and Kupferschmid.”
In the nonleague game, the Twins grabbed a 2-0 lead after two innings, then broke it open in the third with three runs, getting a sac fly by Charles Tappen and a two-run single by Austin Ceccarelli.
Kupferschmid added to the scoring with a two-run double in the fifth, part of a four-run frame.
Harrison Metz pitched four shutout innings of two-hit ball, getting one strikeout.