The American Legion Twins have found the formula that will be required to succeed at the state tournament, which starts Friday at Mulcahy Field in Anchorage.
This past week of crucial league games, capped with a 7-3 victory and a 15-5 defeat against Eagle River on Sunday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, shows exactly what that formula is.
The Twins finish 12-6 in the league and third in the National Division by winning five of their last six league games.
The Twins knew they would be battling for a spot in the state tournament all week, and on July 13, Dallas Pierren got the week off to sparkling start by throwing a no-hitter against East.
While the no-hitter was unusual, the solid start by Pierren was not. But it is the pitching depth that unfolded over the week that has Twins head coach Hector Rivera excited.
“All that I want from these guys when they start a game is two or three good innings,” Rivera said, of all pitchers not named Pierren. “That way, three or four guys can get us through a game.
“But if we have to depend solely on Dallas, we are one and done.”
The week showed there is more to the staff than Pierren. Thursday, Calvin Hills went the entire game in a victory over West. Saturday, Klayton Justice started a doubleheader against Bartlett and went the distance in recording the win. And in the second game, Pierren pitched the first four innings and Hector A. Rivera finished off the game with a scoreless inning.
Then in Sunday’s first game, Tyler Covey pitched the first five innings and gave up just one run, Josh Darrow gave up two runs in three innings, and JJ Sonnen closed the game with a scoreless inning.
In addition to giving up three hits in his four innings, Covey did walk four and hit one. But the Twins were able to turn double plays in the second and third innings, and Covey stayed relatively unscathed despite Eagle River getting runners in scoring position in four of the five innings he pitched.
“Our defense was fine,” said Rivera, whose team also had a pickoff and caught a runner scoring. “They made a couple errors but they weren’t costly errors. There was nobody in scoring position and they were able to minimize the damage.”
On offense, the Twins had some trouble figuring out starter Cameron Fabacher, but took advantage of two Eagle River errors in the first inning to take a 2-0 lead.
Rivera said pitchers that mix their stuff well, like Fabacher, have been giving the Twins trouble.
“He was mixing his stuff and he was outsmarting our hitters,” Rivera said.
Fabacher went six innings and gave up four hits and two unearned runs while walking two and striking out eight.
With the Twins clinging to a 2-1 lead, Guido Gerali entered in the seventh.
“With slower pitchers or pitchers that mix their stuff, our timing gets all crooked,” Rivera said. “But they made a mistake and brought in a fastball pitcher.”
With one away in the seventh, Hector A. Rivera, Sonnen and Pierren hit back-to-back-to-back doubles. All would score for a 5-1 lead.
After Eagle River came back with two runs in the eighth, keyed by a triple from Fabacher, the Twins put two more runs up against Gerali. Covey started the inning with a single and would score on a single by Justin Wisnewski. Then Rivera would single to score Wisnewski.
Rivera, Pierren, Covey and Wisnewski finished 2 for 4 for the Twins. Fabacher was 2 for 4 for Eagle River, while Lauren Frost reached base in three of four at-bats, and Kolby Duxbury doubled in his lone plate appearance.
Coach Rivera said the second game was not must-win for the Twins, so he gave the younger players a chance to play.
Eagle River took advantage by invoking the mercy rule after six innings.
Joey Becher pitched one inning and gave up six runs, Mathew Daugherty pitched three innings and gave up three runs, Hills gave up five runs without recording an out and Kenny Griffin gave up a run in 1 2-3 innings.
Even though the game was not a must-win, Rivera said he expected more out of his younger players.
“I was a little disappointed with what they did with the opportunity,” he said.
Pierren was 2 for 4 with a double and RBI, Griffin was 2 for 3 with an RBI and Cody Quelland was 2 for 3.