Luke Gilbert of the American Legion Twins makes a catch for an out in the fifth inning Thursday.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
The Kenai American Legion Post 20 Twins squeezed their way into third place at the Bill Miller Big Fish Wood Bat Tournament Thursday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai.
With one out and Daniel Hepner dancing off third base in the bottom of the eighth inning in a game scheduled for seven innings, Luke Gilbert was able to put down a perfectly placed bunt as the Twins executed a squeeze play to beat the O’Keiki Baseball Club of La Habra, Calif., 1-0 in the tournament third-place game.
In the tournament championship, Tuscaloosa, Ala., Post 34 scored a run in the top of the seventh inning to beat Dothan, Ala., Post 12 1-0.
“We practice it a little bit,” Hepner said of the squeeze play. “It’s not a major thing, but we practice it so everyone knows what’s going on.”
Hepner had reached when the O’Keiki second baseman couldn’t come up with his slow grounder that hung up on the infield grass, and advanced to third on Luke Oliver’s single to right field.
Oliver stole second, and O’Keiki initially wanted to intentionally walk Gilbert to set up a force at any base. After a conference on the mound, the O’Keiki pitcher instead pitched to Gilbert, giving him the opportunity to drive in the winning run with a rare walk-off bunt, placed just onto the infield grass, far enough that the catcher couldn’t play it but not so far that the pitcher could get to it.
The one run was all Twins starting pitcher Steve Mabeus would need as he held O’Keiki scoreless in eight innings of work to pick up the win.
“I felt pretty good. I had good defense behind me. When the defense makes plays, it makes it easier for me,” Mabeus said.
Mabeus gave up six hits and one walk. He struck out one batter.
“I focused on getting the ball down, getting ground balls,” Mabeus said.
Mabeus said the tournament was a good experience for his team.
“It’s great for us. You get to see how other teams play, how fundamentally sound all of them are they don’t make errors and (facing) the better pitching helps out too. It makes everything else seem easier,” Mabeus said.
Gilbert said he also liked seeing teams the Twins don’t normally play during the course of the season.
“I like having out-of-state teams here,” Gilbert said.
The Twins are looking forward to putting the wood bats back in the storage shed and breaking out their metal bats as they return to Alaska competition this weekend. Mabeus said pitchers love the wood bats because it gives them a little more room for error, but hitters struggled throughout the tournament.
“When we get back to the aluminum, we’ll have a little more pop on our bats,” Twins coach John Butler said.
Butler said the other teams enjoyed their trip to the Kenai Peninsula.
“All three teams enjoyed themselves while they were up here,” Butler said. “They did a little fishing, played a little baseball, and they got to see how we play baseball up here in Alaska in the cold.”
Twins 1, O’Keiki 0, 8 inn.
O’Keiki, Calif. 000 000 00 0 5 1
Kenai 000 000 01 1 4 2
Cummings, Fiecht (8) and Levy; Mabeus and E. Waters. W Mabeus. L Fiecht.
Tuscaloosa 1, Dothan 0
Tuscaloosa, Ala., Post 34 000 000 1 1 2 2
Dothan, Ala., Post 12 000 000 0 0 5 1
Smart and Crawford; Cole and Sanders. W Smart. L Cole.
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