Close, but no cigar.
Needing a win or at least five runs by Belmar, N.J. on Thursday when they took on Excelsior, Minn. in the final game of the Big Miller Big Fish tournament, the American Legion Twins watched a good game, according to coach John Butler, but saw the Mets fall to Excelsior, 3-2.
The victory by Excelsior, coupled with them allowing only the pair of runs, makes them champions of the four-day tournament, while the Twins finished second at 3-1.
Excelsior, who split a doubleheader with the Twins on Wednesday, also finished 3-1, but won the tiebreaker by allowing fewer runs than the Twins.
"Minnesota's got just a good hitting team," Butler said. "New Jersey, they were in the game, the whole game (Thursday). They had runners on to tie it up and the Minnesota pitcher just reached back and got a little extra and closed it out.
"The tournament was a good tournament," he added. "We played two good teams and we saw what we need to work on and how we can get better."
Opening the tourney with back-to-back wins over Belmar on Monday and Tuesday, the Twins claimed a tight 3-1 decision over Excelsior in the first game on Wednesday before committing three costly errors and falling, 7-4, in the nightcap.
"I'm not disappointed in the way we played. I'm disappointed in some of the errors we made that we normally shouldn't make," Butler explained. "They got a little confidence. They now they know they can play with some of these guys. They felt pretty good about themselves.
"They knew if they hadn't made the errors, we would have been right in the ballgame."
Although not surprising to Butler, the Twins' starting pitching dominated throughout the tournament.
Jake Lamphier lasted 6 2/3 innings in the opener, giving up only two runs on four hits, Larsen Kohler didn't allow a hit until the sixth and departed after six innings on Tuesday, Kris Netschert pitched a complete-game on Wednesday and Steven Mabeus, although roughed up early in the finale, settled down before leaving after 5 1/3 innings with a leg injury.
"We thought coming into the year that our pitching was going to be fairly solid," Butler said. "If we can get our defense to shore up and get a little bit better, our pitching should keep us in the games.
"I'm an optimist. I always think that our guys can go more than what some other people might think," he added. "I know that our guys have got big hearts and they're competitive and they want to give it everything they've got."
The next week could possibly determine how far the Twins can go.
With a total of 12 games in nine days beginning Saturday in Anchorage, Butler believes the difficult stretch will mentally prepare his team for the state tournament in August.
"We've got some big hearts on our team," he said. "They won't leave it in the dugout. They'll leave it on the field."
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