Kenai American Legion Post 20 Twins pitcher Shawn Isaacs delivers Tuesday against Dothan, Ala., while Steven Mabeus covers first base.
Photo by Will Morrow
The American Legion Post 20 Twins of Kenai sure aren’t making things easy on themselves.
First, the Twins traveled to Florida, where they ran into some impressive competition at the Firecracker Tournament last month.
Then, they invited the two best American Legion teams in Alabama to their own tournament, the Bill Miller Big Fish Wood Bat Tournament.
“Those are some good teams. They’re flawless,” said the Twins’ Luke Gilbert after the host team lost 7-2 to Dothan, Ala., Post 12 team.
The Big Fish Tournament continues today with a juicy matchup at 9:30 a.m. when Dothan takes on Tuscaloosa Post 34. Dothan was the Alabama state champion from 1999 to 2002; Tuscaloosa has won the state title for the past three years.
“They arranged their trip about the same time we arranged ours. It’s ironic,” Dothan coach Larry Tubbs said of facing his team’s in-state rival so far from home.
“That’s our main competition in the state of Alabama. It’ll be a good game.”
The Twins will play Tuscaloosa in the 12:30 p.m. game today, concluding the round-robin portion of the tournament. The Kenai squad opened the tournament with a 4-3 extra-inning win over the O’Keiki Baseball Club from La Habra, Calif., on Monday, so a win in today’s game would put the Twins into the tournament championship game Thursday at 12:30 p.m. The consolation game is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
In Tuesday’s game, the Twins fell behind early, trailing 6-0 after three innings as Dothan put up five runs in the top of the third inning. Matt Sullivan hit a two-run single for Dothan. Two more runs scored on hit batters with the bases loaded, and one run crossed the plate on a passed ball.
The Twins scrapped for a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Shawn Isaacs reached on an error and advanced on a wild pitch and groundout. Isaacs scored on a single to right by Gilbert, who stole second and scored on a single to left by Jordan Waters.
Butler said Isaacs, the Twins starter, threw well, but left some of his pitches up in the strike zone.
“These teams from down south, if you leave it up, they’re going to hit it wooden bat, aluminum bat, broomstick or otherwise,” Butler said.
In Monday’s game, the Twins scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to tie the score at two and send the game to extra innings.
Twins relief pitcher Luke Oliver pitched a pair of scoreless innings, and got himself the win by scoring in the bottom of the ninth. Oliver reached on a fielder’s choice, advanced on a single by Gilbert and scored on a single to right by Kevin Epperheimer.
Epperheimer pitched the first seven innings, giving up three runs, two of them earned, on three hits and two walks with one strikeout.
Twins head coach John Butler said facing tough competition has helped his squad improve over the past month.
“We have seen some improvement. The Florida trip really helped us. We played some really good teams, and the kids saw what kind of hustle and desire it takes to improve,” Butler said.
“Ever since we got back ... they’ve been showing a lot of heart.”
Epperheimer said that since returning from Florida, the game has slowed down a bit for the Twins.
“Nothing seems too hard anymore. No one’s going to blow it by us anymore. We’re used to fast pitching now,” Epperheimer said.
To be competitive with Tuscaloosa, Gilbert said the Twins would have to stay focused.
“We have to play smart. We can’t be mentally relaxed out there,” Gilbert said.
Epperheimer said it would be up to Twins pitchers to avoid hitting batters. Twins pitchers hit a total of seven batters in Monday’s and Tuesday’s games.
“Our pitching needs to be more consistent. Yesterday and today we hit a lot of batters. We’re giving them too many free bases,” Epperheimer.
Bill Miller Big Fish Wood Bat Tournament
At Coral Seymour Memorial Park, Kenai
Dothan 5, O’Keiki 1
O’Keiki, Calif. 000 000 1 1 5 1
Dothan, Ala. 004 010 x 5 6 3
Huls and Fiecht; Thomley and Goins, Dunlop. W Thomley. L Huls. 2B O’Keiki, Duran.
Dothan 7, Twins 2
Dothan 105 100 0 7 10 1
Kenai 000 002 0 2 3 0
Dunaway and Sanders, Dunlop; Isaacs, Bowler and E. Waters. W Dunaway. L Isaacs. 3B Dothan, Meredith.
Tuscaloosa 6, Okeiki 2
Tuscaloosa, Ala. 002 200 2 6 5 1
O’Keiki, Calif. 020 000 0 2 6 3
Smith, Beasley (7) and Crawford; Lloyd and Levy. W Smith. L Lloyd. 2B O’Keiki, Lloyd.
Twins 4, O’Keiki 3
O’Keiki 000 012 000 3 5 4
Kenai 000 100 201 4 6 3
Rupple and Levy; Epperheimer, Oliver (8) and E. Waters. W Oliver. L Rupple. 2B O’Keiki, Ferrante.
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