The Post 20 Twins advanced to the championship of the American Legion AA State Tournament at Mulcahy Park in Anchorage with two last-inning rallies for victory Friday.
The Twins faced two loser-out games Friday. In the first, Post 20 defeated South 10-9 in 11 innings when Josiah Covey hit a sacrifice fly to score AJ Hull.
In the second, Covey came through again. In a 9-8 victory over Eagle River, Covey singled with two outs in the ninth inning to score Jake Darrow and end the game. It was Covey's second game-winning hit with two outs of the tournament, with the other coming against Service on Tuesday.
In order to add to state titles in 1991 and 1995, Post 20 must defeat Chugiak twice Saturday because Chugiak is undefeated in the tournament. The first game is at 2 p.m. The next game is at 6 p.m., if necessary.
In order to claim the state title, the top-seeded Twins will have to beat a rested Chugiak squad, which is seeded sixth. Chugiak last played Wednesday, defeating Eagle River 10-0. Before that, Chugiak also won on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The Twins, meanwhile, have been scrambling to stay in the tournament since being upset by Eagle River on Saturday in Post 20's first tourney game. The Twins then beat West on Sunday, Service on Tuesday, Fairbanks on Wednesday and South and Eagle River on Friday.
Twins 10, South 9, 11 inn.
In the first game against South, Hull started the winning rally when he led off the bottom of the 11th inning with a triple to right field. South came close to catching the ball on the fly, but when the ball dropped Hull's speed was able to earn a triple.
Covey then ended that game with a sacrifice fly to right field.
The Twins had 14 hits in the game to South's five, but walks by the Twins pitchers allowed South to stay in the game. Twins pitchers issued 17 walks, while South issued just five.
Hull's triple to lead off the bottom of the 11th was the final act in a huge game. On offense, he was 4 for 6 with three RBI and two runs. He also came through on the mound, pitching the final five innings for the win. He gave up two hits and two earned runs while walking six.
Also for the Twins, Jake Darrow was 2 for 5 with two runs, Covey was 2 for 5 with two runs and two RBI and Shayne Miller was 2 for 5 with two RBI.
For South, Brad Butcher was 2 for 4 with two runs and three RBI.
The game was tight and tense throughout.
After South took a 1-0 lead in the first, the Twins came back with three runs in the bottom of the first.
Twins starter Ethan Oliver kept South off the board in the second and third innings, then Post 20 upped the lead to 4-1 in the bottom of the third.
South got a run in the fourth to cut the lead to 4-2, then got another in the fifth in chasing Oliver. He went four innings and gave up one hit and three earned runs while walking nine.
In the top of the sixth, South took a 7-4 lead by getting to relievers Mitchell Daugherty and Max Hegge. Each pitched an inning, with Daugherty yielding two earned runs and Hegge giving up two unearned runs.
The Twins came back with five runs in the bottom of the sixth to take a 9-7 lead. South starter Josh Crapps went five innings, giving up eight runs — seven earned — on nine hits. The Twins had five hits in the sixth inning, with Hull's two-RBI double being the biggest blow.
South chipped away at the lead, getting runs off of Hull in the seventh and eighth innings to forge a tie. But Hull locked South down after that, giving up only one hit in the final three innings.
The Twins' winning rally came off of South's Conner Cucullu, who took the loss. He pitched 5 1-3 innings, giving up five hits and two earned runs.
Twins 9, Eagle River 8
Once again, solid hitting by the Twins was able to make up for walks by the pitching staff.
The Twins banged out 15 hits in the game, while Eagle River had seven. The Twins pitchers walked nine batters, while Eagle River walked five, as the game stayed close throughout.
The game went into the ninth inning tied at 9. Hegge, the winning pitcher, gave up a leadoff double to Zachary Weller. David Fuller then laid down a perfect bunt down the first-base line and beat out the throw, which got past first baseman Mitchell Thompson.
Second baseman Hector Rivera made one of the key plays of the game, backing up the throw and cutting down Weller at the plate when he tried to score on the overthrow. A double play then ended that threat.
Oliver led off the bottom of the ninth with a walk, then Darrow reached on catcher's interference. Oliver was cut down trying to steal third for the first out of the inning, but Darrow would later steal second to put the winning run in scoring position.
After Rivera flew out to second, eventual losing pitcher Fuller walked Hull to bring up Covey for another hero's role. Covey finished 3 for 6 with three RBI and a run.
Fuller had shut out the Twins in nine innings Saturday, meaning Darrow's winning run was the first time the Twins were able to score off Fuller in the tournament after 11 2-3 innings.
Tommy Bowe was 3 for 4 with a run and an RBI, while Darrow was 2 for 5 with three runs and an RBI and Rivera was 2 for 4 with two runs and an RBI. Thompson also was 2 for 5.
Brandon Mahle got the start, giving up three hits and three runs — one earned, in four innings. After the top of the fourth, the Twins trailed 3-2, but Post 20 grabbed a 6-3 lead after the bottom of the fourth.
Daugherty and Dallas Pierren each had a rocky two-thirds of an inning as Eagle River scored one in the fifth and four in the sixth to go up 8-6. The Twins were able to tie the game at 8 in the bottom of the sixth thanks to a two-out single by Oliver.
Hegge's relief work then held back Eagle River, as he did not give up a run in the final three innings. He went 3 2-3 innings, with three hits and one earned run.