Young Twins ready to mount state title defense

Last year, the Post 20 Twins were Post 25 Juneau. This year, they’re playing them.

The Twins, the No. 8 seed, will open up the American Legion Alaska State Tournament today against top-seeded Juneau at 6:30 p.m. at Mulcahy Stadium in Anchorage.

Last season, the Twins were a 32-win juggernaut that won their fourth state title, but only two players from that team will suit up for this state tournament.

Meanwhile, Juneau rolls into the game at 17-1 in the league and 22-2 overall.

“It’s a long shot for us to be able to defend it, in the sense that we’re competing against older teams,” Twins coach Robb Quelland said. “But we’re going to make a show.

“We’re going to make some noise at the tournament.”

The Twins went 11-7 in the league and 17-13 overall to earn the last berth to the state tournament.

But the No. 8 seed may be a bit deceiving because the Twins lost a tiebreaker for the seventh seed, and three other squads finished just a game in front of Post 20.

“When building the roster at the beginning of the year, we basically started from scratch with only a couple players returning,” Quelland said. “I’ve been really impressed that this group of young players has been able to step up and take on these roles.”

Paul Steffensen, the state tourney MVP last season, and Cody Quelland are the only two returners still with the team.

Returners Kenny Griffin and Calvin Hills started the season with the team, but had to leave due to other commitments.

“It was nice they could come back for a short period of time to guide us a bit,” Quelland said.

Quelland said he has some young players on the team that are the appropriate age for a junior varsity level, but they are holding their own with players in their first year of college.

“Most of these guys have never been on this stage before,” Quelland said. “It will be a tough first game under the lights.

“There’s an awe factor. Not only playing in the state tournament, but playing the No. 1 team under the lights in the prime-time game. I’ll have butterflies before the game.”

Quelland said all the Twins can do is pitch well, produce timely hits and play solid defense.

The formula has worked so far. The Twins were the victim of the 10-run rule just once this season, and have gone 3-0 against South, which won the high school state championship in spring.

Quelland feels good about the pitching staff, led by Mose Hayes, Logan Smith, Paul Steffensen and Jeremy Kupferschmid.

“Find the strike zone and trust the defense,” Quelland said. “I tell the kids every day you can’t defend against a walk.”

On offense, especially with the quality of pitching the Twins will be facing at state, Quelland said the top four hitters — Steffensen, Cody Quelland, Seth Adkins and Kupferschmid — are vital.

“The top three or four guys set the tone for the younger guys,” Quelland said. “They feed off them.

“Hitting is about confidence and if they see the first two or three do well they feel in the dugout they can do well.”

Regardless of what happens, the Twins will be soaking up valuable experience. All the players on the team can return next season.

“We look forward to the years to come as these young men mature not only physically but mentally,” said Quelland, who thanked the community and especially the parents for all their support. “Nothing can substitute for game experience.”

Live scoring and a video feed of all the state games will be available at alaskalegion.com.

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