There is one team Twins assistant coach Hector Rivera is worried can beat his squad heading into the 2013 American Legion Alaska State Tournament at Mulcahy Field in Anchorage.
That team? The Twins.
Rivera told the Twins, the defending state champions, as much after they finished the season in fine style by routing South, which finished third in the league standings, 19-6 on Sunday.
“Like I told them Sunday after the game against South, ‘I’ve been telling you guys all along, ever since the first day of practice, that the only team that can beat the Twins is the Twins,’” Rivera said.
But Rivera also notes that the Twins are a young team that can make the errors and issue the walks that are crucial in tournament play.
The Twins finished 14-7 in the league, which would have been good for the No. 4 seed.
However, the Twins had to forfeit four games for using an ineligible player and dropped all the way to the No. 7 seed.
That drop cost the Twins a first-round bye. They now open up today against Fairbanks at 11 a.m.
The Twins had an ineligible player because a new state rule was made before this season saying players had to live within 50 miles of the base school, which is Kenai Central High School for the Twins.
Instead of taking players from Homer and Kodiak off the team, the Twins decided to fight the rule. Four of the players were cleared due to various reasons, but a fifth player cost the Twins the four games when the appeals process was exhausted Friday.
“We are trying to use the situation as a motivating factor,” Rivera said. “We’re not happy with that rule. They did it to clearly affect our team.
“Our team is only trying to feed on that and get these guys fired up to go out and play their best games.”
The Twins’ strength is offense, with seven of the nine starters hitting .322 or better.
Tommy Bowe leads the way at .446, while Hector Rivera is right behind at .417.
Also for the Twins, Dallas Pierren is at .371, Colin Corsetti is at .368, Ethan Oliver is at .360, Shayne Miller is at .329 and Justin Wisnewski is at .322.
On the hill, Rivera said no Twins pitcher has an ERA worse than 5.43. Brandon Mahle, who is 3-2 with a 1.89 ERA, gets the start against Fairbanks.
The one weakness of the pitching staff has been walks and hit batters.
“Everyone is going to be on a short leash,” Rivera said. “The regular season was about building confidence, but now it’s time to go out there and perform.”
The other problem for the Twins has been defense. While the staff has no ERA higher than 5.43, often more runs are scored than that due to errors.
Last season, the Twins lost the tournament opener to Eagle River before ripping off seven straight wins to storm to the crown.
The Twins have beaten Fairbanks twice this year, but Rivera said the team has learned from that opening loss to Eagle River.
“Whatever happened in the regular season is over,” he said. “This is a different tournament.
“We’re going to try and put our best team out there and try to win every game one game at a time.”