In sweeping a doubleheader from South on Saturday, the American Legion Twins showed they are growing up.
In getting trounced by Wasilla in a league game Sunday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, those same Twins showed they aren’t all grown up just yet.
But in earning a split in the nonleague half of Sunday’s doubleheader, Post 20 showed it has the leadership to be a dangerous team when the state tournament starts July 25.
In the first game, the seasoned Road Warriors were missing three starters and still turned in a 12-0 victory in a seven-inning game shortened to five innings by the mercy rule.
The Twins managed just three base runners in the game, while Wasilla surpassed that total when cleanup hitter James Arend reached first on an infield single in the top of the first inning.
“It was just an off day,” Twins coach Robb Quelland said. “Everything went right for them and nothing went right for us.
“I don’t think we’ll play like this for the rest of the season.”
In the second game, a 6-3 win for the Twins in seven innings, Paul Steffensen and Cody Quelland did their best to prove their coach right. Steffensen pitched five solid innings and was 2 for 3 with a run, while Quelland pitched two innings and was 1 for 1 with two runs.
“Those guys are the two holdovers from last year’s state run,” Twins coach Robb Quelland said of the 2016 state champs. “They know how to do things the right way. The younger players on the team feed off them.”
Although the Twins missed a chance at a key league victory in the first game, Quelland said it was important to right the ship in the second game.
“Basically, it was our last home game and the last thing we wanted was to get swept on our home field,” he said.
The first game was pivotal in the league standings.
Wasilla moved to 10-5 in league play and into a tie with West with 45 points for third place in the American Division. The Twins, at 9-7 in the league and 15-13 overall, are in fifth in the American Division with 43 points.
The top three teams in each of the two divisions go to state. The final two entrants at state are the next two teams with the most points, regardless of division.
Right now, the Twins hold the edge for that second spot over Chugiak and Eagle River, who are tied for third in the National Division with 39 points.
“It was a huge game for us,” Wasilla coach Ken Ottinger said.
Quelland called the seasoned and talented Road Warriors an elite team. Ottinger said his squad is starting to get on a roll after learning winning is more important than stats.
“In the beginning of the season, things weren’t clicking,” he said. “We had the talent, but team chemistry is a big thing for us.
“We’re finally starting to find it.”
Sunday’s first game showed why the Warriors are extremely dangerous as the postseason approaches.
A team effort on offense saw Wasilla take 11 bases on walks or hit batters, bang out 11 hits and get runs from eight of the nine spots in the order.
Ben Werner led the effort by finishing 4 for 4 with two runs and three RBIs.
“It was a team effort on offense, and Werner is hitting the heck out of the ball right now,” Ottinger said. “Everybody did a good job getting pitch counts up and getting the bat on the ball.”
The Twins struggled on the mound.
Logan Smith started and lasted 1 2-3 innings, giving up eight runs on five hits while walking seven.
Seth Adkins then pitched 1 2-3 innings, giving up three runs on three hits and three walks, while Harrison Metz pitched the last 1 2-3 innings, giving up three hits and a run.
“We came out flat,” Quelland said. “Our pitching was not on.”
The coach said the pitchers have been solid for the Twins all year, and he expects the pitching staff to rebound from what was the worst performance of the season.
Wasilla had multiple bloop, seeing-eye and infield singles, but both coaches agreed those hits were much more damaging due to the walks.
“A lot of things rolled our way, but it always helps to have runners on,” Ottinger said.
On the flip side, the Twins struggled against Wasilla hurlers Austin Roberston and Hank Boyer — a pair Quelland called two of the top pitchers in the state.
Robertson went three innings and gave up two hits while fanning two, while Boyer finished up with two innings, whiffing three and yielding a hit.
Ottinger said the efficient effort leaves the pitching staff in good shape this week for games against Palmer, Dimond and East.
“Our pitchers are doing their job,” Ottinger said. “They’re not just throwing strikes.
“The last couple of games, they have been hitting their spots.”
Jeremy Kupferschmid had two hits for the Twins while Adkins added a hit.
“We feed off each other,” Quelland said. “We’re a young, emotional team.
“We feed off the top two or three in our order and they didn’t perform today.”
For the Warriors, leadoff batter Kyle Graham reached four times and scored two runs with an RBI.
Boyer was 2 for 3 with two runs and two RBIs, although one of his runs was scored by courtesy runner Carson Boyette. Jacob Gilbert was 2 for 3 with a run and an RBI, while Arend had a pair of RBIs.
In the second game, Steffensen and Quelland showed the value of throwing strikes.
Steffensen pitched a scoreless five innings, giving up four hits while walking one and fanning three. Quelland gave up three runs — two earned — on four hits while striking out one.
“Both have their strengths on the mound, but neither is a formidable starter by any means,” coach Quelland said. “But they threw strikes and worked within their skill sets.”
The coach said the value of the two was particularly potent in the bottom of the sixth. Steffensen doubled, and when Quelland sent in Jacob Belger to run for one of the fastest runners in the state, Steffensen didn’t complain. He hugged Belger and told him to go score.
Quelland then sacrificed Belger to third, and Belger’s brother, David, then knocked Jacob in.
“It was the feel-good moment of the day,” coach Quelland said.
Graham, Arend and Aisha Robertson had two hits for Wasilla in the second game, while Werner had two RBIs. Boyette took the loss, giving up four runs — three earned — in three innings while walking four and striking out five.
The Twins finish their regular season with league games at Palmer on Friday and South on Saturday.