Even though summer doesn’t technically start until June 20 this year, the days are long and the sun is shining, and that means it’s time for some baseball.
The American Legion Post 20 Twins already have split a doubleheader against East last weekend, even though many players from Kenai Central high school were gone, playing in the ASAA state tournament in Anchorage.
With the team having a first official practice of the year Tuesday, head coach Gary Oliver said the Twins are working together well, helped by the fact that the majority of last year’s team is returning. The Twins play Service in a noon doubleheader at Coral Seymour Memorial Park on Saturday before taking on Chugiak in a noon doubleheader on Sunday.
Oliver only counted four players from last year who are not with the team this summer, and six new guys, five of which have never experienced legion play.
“We’ve been covering all the basics, just working on fundamentals,” Oliver said. “The biggest problem is getting all the kids from different schools together now, that’s our challenge every year. We don’t have the luxury of just rolling the high schools into the legion team like they do in Anchorage.
“Our biggest focus right now is refreshing everyone’s fundamentals and getting them to play like one team from the different schools.”
Oliver said the biggest challenge the team will hope to provide against opponents is versatility. Each player is currently working on sharpening his skill sets in various positions, hoping that a more diverse approach will lead to more success.
“We’re not really set on a starting lineup at this point, we’re still moving people around, and we want them to be able to play two to three positions well, because you never know when an injury is going to occur, and we may need our regular third baseman to go play first,” he said. “So we’re working on versatility right now, and getting the guys to play different positions.”
Because of the fact that Oliver does not know quite where everyone will fit in, it is hard to pinpoint where exactly each player will be on the field this summer, but he said it is looking clearer every day and they will know by the Twins’ next game.
Jake Darrow returns from last year, and will likely be an effective second baseman. Hailing from Soldotna, Oliver said Darrow could line up anywhere on the field.
AJ Hull from Kenai could also be important in any position on the field, and likely will be seeing a lot of pitching time this year.
“This team is a strong pitching team,” Oliver said. “With the depth we have, we could do a lot of good.”
Oliver mentioned Brandon Mahle, hailing from Kodiak, as a pitcher this season. Mahle recently was named a part of the All-Conference team in the Southcentral Conference tournament.
Zack Mese is expected to be an asset for the Twins as catcher, as he brings in high school experience, catching for Kenai in the recent state tournament. Ben Barton and Shayne Miller will share duties as catcher along with Mese.
Josiah Covey will likely be covering third base, in addition to Darrow at second and Ethan Oliver at first base. Oliver could pitch as well.
The shortstop position could be played by Miles Jones, who is also adept at pitching.
For the outfield, Oliver threw out names such as Hector Rivera, Tay Harling, Dallas Pierren, Justin Wisnewski and Brian Rowe, although he said that too will likely change.
“The pitching rotation is going to affect the lineup as well, because when we pull a guy in to pitch, we’ll need to put a guy in his spot, so we may move two people to cover the different spots,” Oliver said. “At least everyone’s in throwing shape, and running and hitting well.”
With the improvement in versatility, the Twins are looking stronger than they have in recent years, and Oliver said that as the season goes along, it will be up to the players as to how far they can go.
“This is a year of no excuses, and we expect to have a good year,” he said. “As coaches, we’re here to make them better, but it’s up to the players to get the job done, and if they want it bad enough, they’ll get it.”