Steven Mabeus is conscious of the sporadicity of Alaska weather.
It just takes him a little while to get acclimated to it.
After laboring through a 22-pitch first inning on a chilly, rainy Saturday afternoon, the American Legion Twins’ hurler settled down, limiting Eagle River to just three hits over the next four frames while Jake Lamphier provided a bulk of the offense with a triple and a home run in leading the Twins to a 15-1, five-inning victory over the Wolves in the opening game of a doubleheader.
A 2006 graduate of Soldotna High School, Mabeus attended Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho this past year, earning a redshirt status on the baseball team before returning about three weeks ago to pitch for the local nine.
“It was tough to get loosened up,” he said. “It took me a lot longer in the bullpen to get warmed up and stuff like that.”
When he did, he was too much for Eagle River’s fledgling lineup to handle.
After a slow start during which he allowed two baserunners in the first inning, the younger brother of former Milwaukee Brewers’ pitcher Chris Mabeus zoned in, never letting a runner advance past second base until the fifth, while using his darting slider and sharp fastball to strike out four.
“At the beginning, when I was down there, I had a little advantage because I was used to it and none of the other guys from California and stuff like that, they weren’t used to it,” he said of playing in Idaho. “There, when it was this type of weather, they’re all freezing, having their jackets on and it was not that big of a deal for me.
“But then as it started heating up, I started suffering,” Mabeus added. “Then I got used to it and now coming back to this, it’s just feeling like the same way they did. It hasn’t been this cold in Lewiston (Idaho) in two months.”
Coach John Butler was impressed with his pitcher’s performance, having walked only two while throwing an economic 71 pitches (49 over the final four innings), but envisions an even brighter future.
“He hasn’t gotten used to the Alaskan weather yet again,” Butler explained. “You keep on harping on it, ‘You’ve got to get loose. You’ve got to get loose.’ Then he just goes out and throws like he normally does. In that third inning in his last two starts ... he starts picking it up.
“His ball was a little bit high (Saturday). He knew that he was a little high,” he added. “As well as he pitched, he knows that he can pitch a little bit better. We’re expecting big things out of him.”
Just like Mabeus, it took the rest of the Twins a bit before they found their groove at the plate.
With two outs and Kris Netschert aboard after a four-pitch walk by Wolves’ righty Garrett Balen, Lamphier drilled a 2-0 fastball over the center fielder’s head for a triple and a 1-0 lead.
“My first at-bat I really didn’t wait for my pitch,” said Lamphier, a SoHi graduate who plans on pitching next year at Walla Walla Community College in Washington. “I got up there and saw a pitch I could drive right down the middle and just hit it out there and got a good hit.”
Tanner Pollack followed with a routine pop-up to left field that should have ended the inning, but Tyler Gillum dropped it, allowing Lamphier to score with the eventual winning run.
The miscue was just the beginning of the end for Balen, who toiled through 38 punishing pitches and 12 batters in the third inning alone.
Another misplayed fly ball extended the inning again and the Twins (4-2) capitalized, scoring three more runs on three base hits (Ben Stalker, Justice Elson, Netschert) for a 6-0 advantage after three.
“It’s a young team,” said Eagle River coach Ken Wooster. “We are well aware of our youth and our inexperience and it’s a developmental kind of year. We knew that coming in.”
It showed again in the fourth, as reliever Pat Marshall walked his first two batters before allowing three straight singles to Ethan Waters, Stalker and Elson. Jake Bowler then made it 11-0 when his high pop-up to left was dropped and Netschert and Mabeus each added RBIs on a triple and bloop single, respectively.
And just when the Wolves recorded the first out of the inning, Lamphier jumped all over Marshall’s first offering, crushing it over the left-field fence for his first homer of the year and a commanding 15-0 lead.
“He just threw a bad pitch and I saw it real well, put a good swing on it,” Lamphier said. “It felt real good when I hit it. I knew it was gone, though.”
With the game in hand, Mabeus surrendered his only run when Kris Lehman reached on a fielder’s choice, advanced to second on Mabeus’ second balk of the game and took third on a single by Gillum. When Waters attempted to catch Gillum stealing with a throw down to second, the ball skipped into center field and Lehman walked home.
“There’s some things that show up in games like this that we really need to work on,” Butler said. “But overall, they didn’t get cocky, they stayed mentally tough and that’s what we wanted to see.”
Set to take on the Peninsula Oilers at 2 p.m. today, Mabeus described the first lopsided victory as huge.
“When stuff like that happens for your team, you get so happy,” he said. “It’s great for the young guys, it’s great for the old guys when you have a day like this ... It felt so good to come out with this type of win.”
The Twins followed that impressive performance with another solid effort, a 12-0, five-inning romp of the Wolves in the nightcap.
Larsen Kohler earned the victory after allowing one hit over five innings while striking out two.
Matthew Carroll can be reached at email@example.com.
TWINS 15, WOLVES 1, Game 1
ER 000 01 1 4 3
Post 20 006 9x 15 10 0
Balen, Marshall (4) and Helton; Mabeus and Waters. W Mabeus. L Balen. 3B Post 20: Lamphier, Netschert; HR Post 20: Lamphier. LOB Eagle River 2, Post 20 4.
TWINS 12, WOLVES 0, Game 2
ER 000 00 0 1 5
Post 20 426 0x 12 7 2
Gillum, J. Grotelushen (3) and Balen; Kohler and Elson. W Kohler. L Gillum. 2B Post 20: Mabeus. LOB Eagle River 2, Post 20 5.
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