WASILLA — It’s only the second week of the American Legion baseball season, but that doesn’t mean teams are valuing victories any less. Especially when it comes to league games.
Wasilla managed to manufacture a pair of runs late to get past the Post 20 Twins 4-2 on Wednesday afternoon at Wasilla High School.
“That’s a big league win,” Wasilla head coach Ken Ottinger said. “Knowing our division, the top five are going to be really, really close. Whoever goes to the playoffs could come down to one win or one loss.”
Wasilla managed to grab the victory despite finishing with just a pair of hits in the game.
“It’s almost like the runs were given to us. A lot of walks,” Ottinger said. “But I’ll take them. A walk is as good as a hit to me.”
Wasilla drew 14 walks in the victory. In the seventh, with the score tied at 2, Ben Werner, Jeffrey Forster and Hank Boyer all walked to load the bases, and James Arend drew another walk to drive in Werner, the go-ahead run, and give the Road Warriors the 3-2 lead.
In the bottom of the eighth, Wasilla used more free bases to add to its lead. Kendell Ruta drew a leadoff walk, and Jacob Gilbert followed with another. Taylon Ottinger used a sacrifice bunt to move the runners, and Kyle Graham walked to load the bases.
With the bases loaded again, Werner put down another sacrifice bunt and Ruta scored to give Wasilla the 4-2 lead.
“They’re not being selfish and swinging when they shouldn’t be,” Ottinger said of his players’ approach at the plate. “Having patience is a must if you’re going to win in this league.”
Kenai held the lead twice in the game, but Wasilla was able to provide a quick answer both times.
In the top of the fourth, Kenai cashed in on three of Wasilla’s five errors in the game. Calvin Hills, Kenai’s leadoff hitter in the inning, reached on an error. Spencer Warren reached on another error to put two runners on. Later in the inning, Hills scored on another Wasilla error.
In the bottom of the inning, Arend scored on a Kenai passed ball to tie the game at 1.
In the fifth, Paul Steffensen led off with a single and scored on a Wasilla error to give the Twins a 2-1 lead. In the bottom of the inning, Taylon Ottinger walked and scored on a Kenai error to knot the score at 2.
Steffensen collected three of Kenai’s five hits, and was 3 of 4 at the plate with a run scored. Kenny Griffin and Logan Smith also had a hit each for Kenai. Forster and Ruta finished with hits for Wasilla.
Jacob Gilbert pitched two innings for the Warriors, and earned the win in relief. Austin Robertson started the game, and Hank Boyer worked three innings. With a four-game road trip in Juneau that starts Friday, Ken Ottinger said the goal was to keep pitch counts low and have everyone available for the road trip.
Wasilla improved to 4-0 in league play. Kenai dropped to 3-2.
Adam Brinster got the start for the Twins and had a no-decision after working six innings. He gave up two unearned runs on two hits while walking seven and striking out two.
Seth Adkins took the loss in relief. He gave up an earned run without a hit, walking four in an inning of work. Mose Hayes pitched the final inning for the Twins, giving up a run on no hits while walking three and striking out one.
Wasilla 13, Kenai 3
The Road Warriors swept a doubleheader against the Twins on Wednesday with a 13-3 nonleague victory, invoking the mercy rule after five innings.
Wasilla scored four runs in the bottom of the first before recording its first out in the game. Kyle Graham and Ben Werner drew back-to-back walks to start the inning, and Jeffrey Forster was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Boyer drew another walk to give the Warriors the 1-0 lead. James Arend followed with a two-run double to left center field.
Wasilla led 5-0 after the first.
Arend and Clancy O’Donnell finished with two hits each for the Warriors. Werner scored a team-high three runs. Forster and Boyer added two runs each.
Kenai scored all three of its runs in the fifth inning. Spencer Warren, Porter Fannon and Paul Steffensen scored runs for the Twins. Cody Quelland and Kenny Griffin drove in runs.
Fannon took the loss for the Twins, giving up four earned runs in the first inning. David Belger pitched 2 1-3 innings of relief, giving up seven runs — three earned — on five hits while walking two.
Steffensen pitched two-thirds of an inning, giving up a hit, while Austin Adlam went 1 1-3 innings, giving up two runs — one earned — on three hits. Adlam walked one and struck out two.
The Twins are now 3-3 overall. They host Dimond in a noon doubleheader at Coral Seymour Memorial Park to open up the home slate.
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman sports editor Jeremiah Bartz at email@example.com.