The Post 20 Twins opened the American Legion AA Northwest Regional Tournament in Billings, Mont., Thursday with a 12-2 loss to Waipahu (Hawaii).
Waipahu, the defending tournament champion with eight returning players on the roster, scored six runs in the first inning en route to invoking the mercy rule with one out in the eighth inning.
Twins coach Hector Rivera said the game ended with a ground ball to shortstop Jake Darrow that was perfect for a double play — a double play that would have gotten the Twins out of the inning.
The ball took a bad hop, allowing Waipahu to score and end the game.
The Twins (36-10 overall) play at 7:30 a.m. Friday in an elimination game at the tournament, with Tay Harling getting the start. The audio can be streamed at www.mtsportscast.com. The game can be tracked on the Internet at www.legion.org/baseball/tournaments/northwest.
When the Twins showed up at the field at 7:30 in the morning, the temperature was 86 degrees. The Twins were in for another shock in the first inning.
The Twins took the lead in the top of the first inning when Hector Rivera reached on an error and eventually scored on a single by Josiah Covey.
Waipahu answered by hitting normally reliable Twins starter Brandon Mahle hard in the first inning. Waipahu had five hits — including three triples and a double — in scoring six runs.
Coach Rivera said that Mahle could have located some pitches better, but he also gave a lot of credit to Waipahu's hitters.
"I went out to the mound to talk to him. I told him, 'You've got to keep the ball down, man. Anything up at the waist, they're going to crush it,'" Rivera said. "One of the kids just hit a double. He told me, 'Coach, I put that ball low and away and he still hit it.'"
Rivera said he isn't sure that the Twins ever recovered from that first inning.
"That first inning was kind of shocking," he said. "It took them out of the game they are used to playing."
A big difference in the game was clutch hits. The Twins were outhit 16-9, while Waipahu made three errors to the Twins one.
"We got runners in scoring position many times, we just couldn't bring them home," Rivera said. "They have a great outfield.
"Those outfielders are pretty fast and robbed a bunch of hits that could have been gappers. They robbed Jake (Darrow), they robbed Josiah, they robbed Mitchell Thompson. They made a bunch of good plays."
The Twins other run came in the third inning, when Darrow tripled to start the inning and scored on a single by Rivera. Waipahu would score a run in the bottom of the third, then go up 11-2 with four runs in the fourth.
Mahle pitched 3 2-3 innings, giving up 11 runs on 10 hits while walking three and striking out two. Max Hegge pitched the final 3 2-3, giving up one run on six hits.
Sumi Pruett won for Hawaii, pitching seven innings and giving up two runs — one earned — on seven hits while walking one and striking out 10.
"Their pitcher was good, but we were hitting him," Rivera said. "Whenever he got into trouble, he always got the pitch that he needed."
Drake Yoshioka kept the Twins off the board for the final two innings.
Darrow, Covey and Rivera led the Twins with two hits apiece.
With the loss, the Twins find themselves in a familiar position. At the state tournament, the Twins lost the first game before winning seven straight to claim the title.
"We have rebounded before," Rivera said. "We're working on getting things in place so we can rebound again."