The American Legion Twins were forced to play catchup for nearly the entirety of a game that ultimately resulted in a 6-3 loss to Service on Wednesday in the semifinals of the Bill Miller Big Fish Wood Bat Tournament at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai.
Under cloudy, threatening skies, Service punched its ticket to today’s championship game, and Post 20 saw its tournament end prematurely, but not because of the loss, but because of the weather.
Wednesday’s game between Alberta (Canada) and Columbia (Tennessee) was suspended in the second inning due to the rain that hit Kenai following the Twins game, with Columbia holding a 1-0 lead with the bases loaded and one out.
Alberta and Columbia will try to finish up today at 9 a.m. at Seymour Park, with the winner moving on to play Service in the championship. If play cannot be resumed by 11 a.m., it will be scrapped, similar to what happened at the 2012 Bill Miller tournament.
But because that makeup game is happening this morning, the consolation games, which would have included the Twins, cannot happen this morning.
Earlier in the day, Vermont topped California 11-6.
On Wednesday, the big hitter for Service was Ryan Bailey, a 2013 graduate who just completed his freshman year in college.
“I had a real shaky start to the tournament and just wanted to come out big today,” Bailey said.
Bailey went 4 for 4 against the Twins, including a double, and had three RBIs on three separate at-bats.
“I think the wood bats just make it a truer game,” he said. “You really have to put the barrel on the ball for every pitch.”
Service coach Willie Paul said his team was excited to make the trip down to Kenai, despite the rainy day, and the use of wood bats for this event helps bring out the better qualities of teams.
“This is one of our more favorite tournaments to come down to because the wood bats bring out the defense for the best teams,” Paul said. “It really shows who the better hitters are since it’s harder to hit with wood.”
Paul said his team uses wood bats for almost all of their batting practices, so the Cougars are accustomed to hitting with them. Plus, the old-fashioned crack of a ball glancing off a wood bat simply sounds better.
“Some teams come into this and are a little unfamiliar because it’s different, but we take enough BP with it to be confident,” he said.
Paul said Wednesday’s victory was no doubt helped by a lower pitch count, compared to what Kenai was throwing.
“We’re trying to get as far as we can in this tournament, but the season kicks off for us again right after this so we’re trying to manage our pitchers to continue to do well in our league games and still do well here,” Paul said. “The more our guys can be effective on the mound and limit their pitch count, the deeper they can go and have a better chance.”
From the get-go, Tyler Covey found difficulty facing the Service batting lineup. Covey ended the day with three innings on the mound, giving up four runs on four hits and two walks. In the first inning, Covey gave up three runs on three hits and a walk. Raleigh Pigg started things with a leadoff double, then Ryan Caron walked.
Bailey then hit a massive single to left field that brought Pigg in to score. Following that, Darren Tatum hit a floater to center field that scored Hunter Johnson and Caron. Tatum, however, ended up being caught stealing third.
In the top of the third and with two outs, Bailey belted out another single to left field, bringing Lucas Lapointe in to score.
“He did really well for us,” Paul said. “He’s been a solid hitter for us all year long, and he’s turned it up.”
Tommy Bowe notched the first run of the day for the Twins in the bottom of the fourth, scoring on an error from third baseman Lapointe, who attempted to catch Bowe stealing the base. Bowe’s run closed the deficit to 4-1.
After another two runs from Service in the fifth inning extended the lead to 6-1, Post 20 found some late momentum in the bottom of the fifth.
Service put Jacob Wasson on the hill, but Wasson failed to record an out, instead walking Justin Wisnewski and Hector A. Rivera. It was enough for coach Paul to substitute Wasson for Josh Fetko, who immediately helped out with two outs.
Even with one out to go, the Twins fought back, as Bowe hit a single that scored Wisnewski and Rivera, but the scoring stopped when Bowe was caught stealing.
Calvin Hills hit 2 for 2 to lead the Twins, and Rivera and Bowe both had a hit apiece.
On the mound, Klayton Justice replaced Covey in the fourth inning and pitched three frames, giving up two runs on four hits and two walks. Mathew Daugherty took over for the seventh inning and gave up no runs on two hits and one strikeout. Michael Shuler got the start for Service, pitching two innings with zero runs and one hit.
Paul said the approach his team will be taking into today’s championship game will be the same attitude they came into the tournament with.
“We have nothing to lose, and wood bats kind of even the playing field,” Paul said. “We’re excited, we’re just going to come out here and have fun, see what we can do.”