With four hitless innings already under his belt, American Legion Twins hurler Larsen Kohler knew a visit from manager John Butler was imminent after allowing three walks and one run while committing a balk to open the fifth.
It doesn't seem like he minded, though.
"He's a pretty calming guy," Kohler said with a laugh. "After a visit, it usually works out."
This time was no different.
The righty needed only one pitch to retire Belmar, N.J. Mets' pitcher Bill Kurtz on a pop up, but once again found himself in trouble in the sixth inning following an error, another balk and the Mets' first hit of the game as they crept within two with two outs.
Pacing back and forth in front of the Twins' dugout, Butler opted to let his starter persevere through this jam.
And Kohler did just that, inducing Ryan Brady to ground out before Justice Elson pitched a scoreless seventh in preserving a 6-3 Twins victory Tuesday in the Bill Miller Big Fish Tournament at Coral Seymour Memorial Park.
"Larsen pitched a great game," Butler said. "He lost a little bit of his mechanics. All he had to do was stop and think about what he was doing and he's a smart young man and he's got a lot of talent."
While hoping Kohler could escape the inning, Butler's ulterior motive was to get Elson some time in the bullpen as opposed to bringing him in without warming up.
"I wanted to go a couple of pitches but he started making his corrections on his mechanics and I just let him get out," Butler explained. "Plus, if he can get out of it without throwing too many more pitches, then I'd have a chance to get Justice in the bullpen and get him warmed up a little bit.
"He did and he gave Justice some time to get in and get warmed up instead of having him come in cold, which no pitcher likes to do that."
Thanks to Kohler's strong outing, coming in only his fourth start of the season, and the Twins ever-improving patience at the plate, American Legion is now 2-0 in the four-day tournament, after beating Belmar, N.J. 6-2 on Monday.
"It's very nice. I was real pleased with the way the guys came out two days in a row," he said. "We had a few mistakes. With their pitcher being a little bit tired, we got the clutch hits when we needed them and we showed more patience at the plate than we have in the past."
The Twins restraint was best exhibited in the third, as Jake Bowler and Elson walked and Tanner Pollack singled to load the bases.
Following an RBI ground out by Josh Gilbert, Steven Mabeus and Ethan Waters were both hit by pitches for a 2-0 lead and Jake Lamphier also walked, making it 3-0 after three.
The Twins scored again in the fourth when Elson reached on an error, stole second and came home on another error.
Kurtz lasted five innings after surrendering four runs on four hits and seven walks while striking out three.
Guy Iacono, who pitched the final two innings, didn't fair much better.
Elson opened the sixth with a single, again stole second and scored when Waters slapped a 2-2 pitch into left field.
The Twins tacked on their final run in the seventh when Kris Netschert singled, Elson doubled and Tanner Pollack also singled, bringing Netschert home for a 6-3 edge.
Despite pitching seven innings in his first start of the season, Kohler was still especially pleased with his performance on Tuesday, allowing only three runs on one hit and five walks.
"It's definitely nice to be able to start and go a long distance, especially against an out-of-state team," he said. "Hopefully we'll win the tournament."
Today will go a long way in determining that, as the Twins take on Excelsior, Minn. at noon and again at 4 p.m. Excelsior defeated the Mets, 10-1, in the first game on Tuesday.
"This New Jersey team was a good team. We happened to play some of our best baseball, and we're hoping to do the same thing (today)," Butler said. "Yeah, it's a doubleheader. But we're used to that."
TWINS 6, METS 3
Post 20 003 101 1 6 8 5
Belmar 000 012 0 3 1 5
Kohler, Elson (7) and Waters; Kurtz, Iacono (6) and Peterson. W Kohler. L Kurtz. 2B Post 20: Netschert, Elson. LOB Post 20: 11; Belmar: 5.
Peninsula Clarion ©2013. All Rights Reserved.