If Thursday’s hitting performance against South is any indication of how the Post 20 Twins will do this year, then opposing defenses are going to have to batten down the hatches.
The Twins opened their season by splitting a doubleheader with South at the Kenai Little League fields, losing the opening seven-inning league game 8-6 and winning the second, nonleague game 10-2.
In the second contest, Post 20 sent out 17 hits, six of those coming in the top of the seventh inning. Five runs were also scored in the frame.
“We can hit anybody,” said Twins coach Hector Rivera. “We have no pressure. The four guys coming back from last year are good leaders, and they like to help the younger guys. We’re going to be fine, and I’m looking forward to a good season.”
In the second game, Tommy Bowe led the Twins by batting 3 for 4 with two runs, Josh Darrow hit 2 for 3 with two runs, JJ Sonnen hit 1 for 3 with three RBIs and Cody Quelland hit 2 for 3 with two runs. Rivera’s son, also named Hector, hit 3 for 5 in the leadoff spot.
“All we need now is field time,” Rivera said. “(South) should be one of the best teams in the league, and we had them.”
Quelland hit a single in the top of the second that brought Darrow home for the first run of the game, and from there, Post 20 cruised. The Twins had a run in the third inning, one in the fourth, one in the fifth and five in the seventh.
On the mound, Joey Becher, Tyler Covey and Klayton Justice shared pitching duties. Becher went two innings with one hit and four walks, Covey went two innings with two hits and three walks, and Justice finished up with two hits and one walk. Becher threw 49 pitches, Covey had 30 and Justice had 37.
For South, Sage Dudick, Alex Schlegal and Tommy Koloski split pitching duties. Dudick went the first three innings with five hits, Schlegal went two innings with five hits and Koloski went two innings with five hits, all in the last frame.
In the first game, Dallas Pierren took care of things on the mound, but still received the loss. Pierren threw 101 pitches, giving up 12 hits, seven earned runs and three strikeouts.
The go-ahead run in that game came in the top of the sixth, when Alec Valdez blasted a rare home run out of the park to break up a 4-4 tie.
“(Pierren) did well, he just forgot who he was pitching to,” Rivera said. “It was the first pitch to Alec. He’s just a strong kid, and that was the only mistake Dallas made the whole game I think.”
After grabbing a 3-0 lead, South let a few slide in the bottom of the third. Rivera stole home for the Twins’ first run, then was followed by a single from Pierren that brought Kenny Griffin home to score.
In the bottom of the fourth, Post 20 took a 4-3 lead on a single from Justin Wisnewski that scored Covey and a single from Rivera that brought Wisnewski around.
However, after a tying run in the top of the fifth gave the Wolverines a chance for the lead in the sixth, when Valdez hit his homer.
“Our defense kind of let up in the last inning,” Rivera said. “We made two errors, it cost us two runs, and we still scored a couple in the last inning. It was almost.”
The Twins looked to have a comeback in the works in the seventh inning, starting with a sacrifice fly from Bowe with the bases loaded that scored Rivera. That was followed by a run from Griffin on a passed ball. Ultimately, the Twins were unable to finish the game before the third out.
South coach Cliff Butcher said coming back to win a league game after a hectic weekend — one that nearly saw South win the state high school championship in a thrilling 11-10 game to Sitka, all coming after a 15-inning semifinal — was just what his squad needed.
“We were just reloading this week,” Butcher said. “We played Monday night and it was just tiring.”
South improved to 1-2 with the win and are 1-3 overall.
With the season underway, the Twins are already looking at a different landscape in Alaska Legion AA play.
The addition of four new teams in Palmer, Fairbanks, Juneau and Ketchikan have allowed the state to be split up into two separate divisions.
The American division will include Service (3-2 overall), East (2-3), Dimond (4-0), Wasilla (1-0), South, West (0-5), Juneau and Ketchikan. The National division will be comprised of Chugiak (4-2), Eagle River (1-1), Bartlett (3-3), Fairbanks Post 30 (1-0), Fairbanks 11 (0-1), Kenai, Kodiak and Palmer. Each team will play 18 league games this summer.
“I’m hoping that these guys will turn around and we’ll be able to dominate,” Rivera said about the teams his squad will be facing. “I’ll give myself two weeks.
“This week will be hard work, and we’ll need to win a couple games and bring the confidence up on the team.”
The top three teams from each league receive an automatic berth to the state tournament in August, followed by two wild cards representing the two next best squads. If two teams in position for the second wild card spot have identical records, a tiebreaker game will be played.
Rivera said four players are returning from last year’s Post 20 team.
“We have high hopes,” he said. “We’re working together as a team, and you saw how they bounced back from that defeat in the first game.”
As he did Thursday, Pierren will be starting the bulk of the Twins’ games this year, and will be joined in the bullpen by Miles Jones and Mitchel Daugherty, who haven’t arrived yet. Daugherty is also listed on the Peninsula Oilers’ pitching roster, but according to Rivera, Daugherty will be playing legion ball this summer.
“Pitching is going be OK, I mean, I don’t have a Brandon Mahle like last year,” Rivera said. “Dallas is going to be our horse, and we expect a lot from Miles, Tommy (Bowe) can pitch, Hector (Rivera) can pitch, everybody can.”
Rivera, Griffin, Bowe, Justice Miller and Wisnewski have all shown glimpses of batting brilliance, and coach Rivera is encouraged by the newer talent in Darrow, Quelland and Sonnen.
“I’m still learning who can play where,” Rivera said. “I don’t have a definite lineup yet. It’s trial and error.”
The Twins will also be getting some long days this summer, starting with two straight days of doubleheaders with both Fairbanks teams June 24 and 25.
“It starts right here, one game at a time,” Rivera said.