The American Legion Twins opened up their season on Sunday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park by splitting with East.
In the first game, DJ Stilchen went seven solid innings and the Twins pounded out 13 hits in a 12-4 victory in eight innings. In the second game, Twins manager John Butler gave his younger players some field time and the Twins lost 11-1 in five innings.
Stilchen pitched the first seven innings and gave up one unearned run on three hits while striking out six and walking three.
"Their pitcher threw a hell of a game," said East coach Jarred Lewis, whose team also was making its Legion debut. "We were a little bit on our heels."
Butler said he made a few adjustments in Stilchen's delivery in a bullpen session earlier in the week and it paid off as Stilchen, for the most part, pounded the strike zone.
Stilchen also was able to continuously work out of trouble, as East put runners in scoring position in five innings against him. Stilchen's best work came in the fifth, when the Thunderbirds had runners on second and third with one out.
Patrick McFarland tried to bunt, but he popped it up. Stilchen made a mad dash for the ball and laid out for the catch. He was then able to double the runner off of third.
"I just jumped and hoped I would catch the ball," Stilchen said. "I was happy to make that play."
East starter Connor Carle was able to keep the Thunderbirds in the game by scattering eight hits over 5 2-3 innings. He gave up four runs, but only two were earned.
Ethan Oliver gave the Twins the lead when he doubled home Josiah Covey in the bottom of the fourth. Tay Harling then singled in Oliver. The Twins stretched the lead to 4-0 when Steven Steger doubled in Covey in the fifth and Braden Price grounded out to score Dylan Morrison in the sixth.
The Thunderbirds got to Stilchen for a run in the seventh before taking advantage of reliever Braden Price's wildness and a couple of errors in the eighth. Price walked two and hit a batter as East tied the game at 4 by scoring three runs -- two of which were unearned -- in the frame.
"I'm really proud that when East tied the score, the guys did not quit," Butler said.
Instead, the Twins produced a game-winning rally against East reliever McFarland. That made a winner out of Price.
East had two costly errors in the eighth inning that led to just two of the eight runs being earned. The Twins also pounded out four hits in the frame, with Mitchell Thompson and Morrison each collecting two-RBI doubles.
"Defensively, we didn't execute," Lewis said. "You can't give a good team extra outs."
On offense in the first game for the Twins, Thompson was 2-for-5 with two RBIs and a run, Covey was 2-for-5 with three runs and an RBI, Steger was 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI, Oliver was 2-for-3 with a run and two RBIs, Harling was 2-for-5 with a run and an RBI, Morrison was 1-for-2 with two runs and two RBIs, and Stilchen was 2-for-4 with a run.
"A lot of the players have been playing throughout the high school season and have had a chance to work on their hitting there," Stilchen said.
In the second game, Butler decided to give the Soldotna High School players some rest, since the Stars finished their season by competing in a tournament Thursday through Saturday.
"There were a couple of innings where the oldest guy on the field for us was 16," Butler said. "I haven't seen some of these guys and they need to play."
Butler said the younger players, including Oliver and Mitchel Daugherty on the mound, did a decent job, but at the same time were plagued by some fits of inexperience.
"I definitely saw some good things out there," Butler said.
The Twins will host Service at 12:30 p.m. Sunday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park.
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