West continued to show why it is a program on the rise Sunday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai by defeating the Twins 3-1 in an American Legion contest that turned on bang-bang base-running plays.
The Eagles also won the seven-inning, nonleague game 7-4.
West had only won eight league games in the past five years coming into this season, but the Eagles moved to 5-1 in the league and 8-1 overall.
“West High School is coming for a big season this year,” West head coach Luis Alvarez said. “The guys are playing intense.”
The Twins fell to 3-4 in the league and 4-6 overall.
With Post 20 pitchers Mose Hayes and Calvin Hills limiting the Eagles to two hits, and West starter Chris Crespo holding the Twins to just one, the game came down to four base-running plays.
Two of those plays happened in the top of the sixth inning, when West scored the two runs that were the difference in the ballgame.
The Eagles loaded the bases with nobody out on an error, a single and a walk. With Leland Wilson at the plate, Hayes threw a ball in the dirt that kicked away from catcher Cody Quelland.
Enar Anderson was on first and broke for second, but the other runners stayed put. However, as Twins first baseman Kenny Griffin was tracking down Anderson, Luis Nunez daringly broke for home and just beat the throw of Griffin for a 2-1 lead.
“We ran ourselves into trouble,” West assistant coach John Wilson said. “We were lucky to score.”
But the daring didn’t stop there. Wilson then put down a perfect bunt. Crespo waited for the throw to first, then dashed home and again just barely beat a throw by Griffin for a 3-1 lead.
Twins coach Robb Quelland said both plays were tough calls for the Twins defense. On the safety squeeze, he said the proper play may have been to catch Crespo off third, but added that West made the decision tough.
“They were close calls,” Quelland said. “They didn’t work out in our favor. It’s one of those things where baseball is a game of inches.”
Alvarez said just as important were the inches the Eagles used to keep Twins leadoff hitter Paul Steffensen, one of the fastest runners in the state, under wraps.
In the bottom of the first, Steffensen led off with a single, stole second and made it to third on a balk with one away.
But Crespo executed a slick pickoff move to end that threat.
Then in the fifth inning, with the score knotted at 1, Steffensen reached on an error with one down. But catcher Luke Langnes gunned him down trying to steal second.
Quelland coached Steffensen last season in Legion and also frequently sees Steffensen play for Kenai Central as the Soldotna High School coach. He could only remember Steffensen getting caught stealing second once before.
“We know he is a fast runner,” Alvarez said. “Those plays were a big change in emotion for the guys.”
Quelland said the biggest problem was the one-hit attack of the Twins. Crespo, who is in his second Legion season after coming to Alaska from Puerto Rico, gave up just an unearned run while walking three and striking out nine in seven innings.
He punctuated the performance by striking out the side in the seventh inning.
“You can’t win a game at this level with one run,” Quelland said.
Alvarez said another key point in the game was the fourth, when Griffin started the inning by reaching on an error and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Seth Adkins.
The West coach said that start had all the makings of a bad inning, but his squad played great defense from that point on.
“I give them all the credit in the world,” Quelland said. “They played a great defensive game. They played better than we did.”
Quelland said the team’s lack of experience continues to show on offense. But the pitching and defense have been good enough to win.
Hayes took the hard-luck loss, going six innings and giving up three runs — one earned — on two hits while walking none, hitting two and striking out three. Hills added a perfect seventh inning of relief.
“Their pitcher, Mose, pitched a beautiful game,” Wilson said.
In the second game, four West pitchers — Wilson, Thomas Zettler, Shawn Jones and Ivan Tillman — combined to hold the Twins to four hits.
West was only able to get two hits, but the Twins committed four errors on defense — leading to five unearned runs — and Post 20 pitchers also walked 10 batters.
Adkins got the start and gave up three runs — one earned — in three innings. Quelland yielded two runs — one earned — in two innings, while Hills gave up two unearned runs in two innings.
Porter Fannon led the Twins at the plate by going 2 for 2 with a run and an RBI.
Quelland said the priority is always to win the nonconference game, but with a big break coming up he wanted to get some pitchers some innings and try some other players at different positions.