The Post 20 Twins defeated Chugiak 8-7 and 11-4 on Saturday to win the Alaska Legion AA Tournament at Mulcahy Park in Anchorage.
The Twins (36-9 overall) won their third overall title and first since 1995 by winning seven straight games after opening the tournament on July 28 with a loss.
“We just took it one game at a time,” Twins head coach Gary Oliver said. “We knew what we were up against. “We kept knocking them off and fighting, and we were able to meet our goal from the first of the season.”
The last of the Twins’ victims was Chugiak, which was denied a seventh state title.
“There’s a reason why they’re a No. 1 seed,” Chugiak coach Bill Lierman said. “You’ve got to give them credit.”
Post 20, the tourney’s top seed, went 3-1 against No. 6 seed Chugiak in the regular season, but the Mustangs had an advantage Saturday because they were undefeated heading into the title games.
That meant Chugiak had to just win once Saturday, while the Twins had to win twice. The Mustangs also had rested since beating Eagle River in the semifinals Wednesday, while the Twins were coming off of victories over South and Eagle River on Friday.
Pitching can often become a problem for a team playing so many games in a short period of time, but Oliver said he knew the Twins had enough arms to win, even after losing the first game of the tournament.
“We’ve had players step up all year, so I wasn’t concerned about the pitching,” he said. “I knew we had enough to get by. “I was concerned with the guys’ mental toughness. Could they overcome all the obstacles, keep the bats going and keep the morale up? They pulled through due to the strong leadership of the seniors and the maturity of this team.”
After getting shut out in the first game of the tournament, Post 20 scored more than 10 runs in all but one of their remaining seven games, scoring nine in the lone contest they didn’t reach double digits.
AJ Hull provided the key pitching performance in Saturday’s clincher. Hull pitched seven innings and gave up four runs — three earned — on three hits. He walked four and struck out two. This came the day after Hull pitched the final five innings of an 11-inning win over South. Hull also was 3 for 5 with an RBI in the clincher, earning game MVP honors.
Hull had to come out after seven innings because pitchers can only pitch 12 innings in two days.
“We said, ‘We’ll try it,’” Oliver said of starting Hull. “He said he felt good today. He was pitching a good ballgame and he was able to go the full seven innings he had left.”
The Twins led 8-4 after Hull exited in the top of the seventh. Dallas Pierren pitched two hitless innings to sew up the title.
Post 20 had a stellar fifth inning, in which six runs were scored to take a 6-2 lead. Brian Rowe had a two-RBI double that broke a 2-all tie.
Mitchell Thompson went 2 for 4 with two runs and one RBI, Jake Darrow went 2 for 5 with one RBI and one run, and Shayne Miller hit 2 for 5 with two RBI and one run.
Josiah Covey was 1 for 5 with two runs to wrap up a tournament in which he won the Big Stick Award.
Covey ended two tourney games with two-out singles, and ended another with a sacrifice fly.
“Josiah is phenomenal player committed to doing what the coaching staff asks him to do,” Oliver said. “He’s the first one to volunteer when we need something done.
“I joke with the coaching staff, if we needed somebody to go stand on their head at second base the entire game, he would be the first one to go do it. He’s a humble kid.”
Jake Darrow, the slick-fielding shortstop, was announced as co-holder of the Gold Glove.
“Our whole defense just played solid,” Oliver said. “When we committed an error, we didn’t put our heads down. We got back to where we needed to be.”
The Twins will now qualify for the American Legion Northwest 7 Tournament in Billings, Mont. Their first game will be Aug. 9 against Hawaii. Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana also will be there.
Twins 8, Chugiak 7, Game 1
The Twins survived a wild, ninth-inning comeback attempt to advance to the winner-take-all championship game.
Twins reliever Covey came in to protect an 8-6 lead in the ninth inning.
Morgan Spohn led off the inning with a walk before Alex Bozzo flied out and Joseph Fugure struck out.
Cameron Fritz kept the inning alive by walking.
Then, things got crazy.
Chase Wilson hit a dribbler down the first-base line. The ball rolled all the way down the line and hit first base, with Wilson reaching safely. However, Post 20 alertly caught Fritz taking too big of a turn at second and got him in a rundown. Fritz managed to avoid the tag and make it back to second, while Spohn scored in the confusion to cut the gap to 8-7.
Conner Cimmiyotti then hit a blooper to right field, but Ethan Oliver made a diving catch to end the game.
Gary Oliver said he and another assistant were talking about the play and figured it was a game-saver.
The game was low scoring until the final two innings.
Tay Harling got the start for the Twins and pitched 6 2-3 innings, giving up eight hits and two earned runs. He walked three and struck out two.
Justin Schneider started for Chugiak, going seven innings and giving up nine hits and three runs — one earned.
The Twins led 3-0 after the fourth inning, then Chugiak cut the lead to 3-2 in the top of the seventh inning. The Mustangs then went up 6-3 in the top of the eighth inning. Brandon Mahle gave up four earned runs in one inning in relief for the Twins.
But the Twins battled right back with five runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to take an 8-6 lead.
Fritz came in to pitch for Chugiak and walked Tommy Bowe, but Fritz then recorded two outs at Bowe advance to third.
Oliver started the two-out, five-run rally with a single that scored Bowe. After Jake Darrow walked, Hector Rivera doubled to score Oliver and put Darrow at third.
AJ Hull then singled to score Darrow for an 8-7 lead. A throwing error, combined with Hull’s blazing speed, allowed Hull to score for the 8-6 lead.
Both teams had 12 hits in the game.
Rivera led the team by going 4 for 5 with a run and two RBI. Covey also was 2 for 5 for the Twins.
For Chugiak, Wilson was 3 for 5 with four RBI, while Cimmiyotti, Deven Ferriss, Schneider and Bozzo each had two hits.