Twins top Service in 1st game of tourney

Posted: Wednesday, July 08, 2009

John Butler decided it was best not to remind his team about its showing at last season's Bill Miller Big Fish Wood Bat Tournament.

That was when the American Legion Twins, for the first time in the history of their own tournament, went winless in finishing fourth.

No need for the coach to worry about that predicament next summer.

Capitalizing on a costly error by Service, the Twins overcame a one-run deficit and scored the winning run courtesy of a walk-off single by Josh Gilbert in earning a wild 4-3, seven-inning win over the Cougars on a perfect Tuesday afternoon at Coral Seymour Memorial Park.

In the end, Butler's choice not to conjure memories of last summer's 0-for-4 tourney performance proved wise.

"I did not tell them that we did not win a game last year. A couple of our senior guys knew it, but we didn't want to put any pressure on them," he said. "So we just said, let's go out and play hard. Let's see if we're starting to develop as a team and we are. So that's what we're kind of using this for.

"It is a very good feeling to win the first one," Butler added. "At least we're not going to go 0-for-the-tournament this year."

The Twins were rather close to beginning that journey, though.

Leading 2-0 after the first, Twins starter Braden Price surrendered three runs over the fourth and fifth innings, although none were earned, and Service maintained that slim one-run cushion entering the seventh.

Cory Crabb relieved Cougars starter Corey Wiles, who had allowed just the pair of runs on four hits and five walks over six impressive innings.

After requiring a single pitch to get the first out of the seventh, Crabb induced Justice Elson, who entered the game in the fifth inning as a defensive replacement, to ground to shortstop Chase Barrus.

Barrus' throw to first was high, allowing Elson to reach safely.

"We got a lot lucky on that," Butler laughed.

Following a walk to Price, who went 1-for-2 with two walks, Jake Darrow flied to right for the second out.

Another free pass to Mikey Griffin loaded the bases for Mitchell Thompson, who was 0-for-3 with a fielder's choice entering the at-bat.

Thompson was then hit with Crabb's second pitch, forcing home Elson with the tying run.

"He came in, he wasn't quite warmed up enough. He's a young guy," Butler said of Crabb, who took the loss. "For the most part, we were fairly patient with him. We didn't swing at too many bad pitches and got on base."

Gilbert, having also entered the game in the fifth to play shortstop, promptly pulled a 1-1 pitch over third baseman Stephen Ferntheil's head, easily plating Price with the winning run.

"That definitely relieved a lot of pressure from me when (Thompson) got hit and it was a tie ballgame," Gilbert said, "but I was thinking, 'Don't mess up. Don't mess up.'"

He wasn't even close.

"Josh did a good job of hanging in there and pulling it," Butler said before joking, "It's about time he got a hit."

Including Gilbert and Elson, the bottom eight hitters in the lineup went a combined 2-for-17 with one walk, while the top three hitters -- Price, Darrow and Griffin -- were 3-for-6 with six walks, two to each of them.

"It's been the whole season like this is that the top three, four guys are carrying the load. The bottom of the lineup has to start producing. They do, but not consistently," Butler said. "And that's what we're trying to stress on them is that we've got to get consistent.

"Not just depend on the top of the lineup, because the bottom of the lineup is where we need to start scoring runs."

It was the middle of the Cougars order that got to Price.

Owning a comfortable 2-0 lead after the first when Thompson knocked in a run on a fielder's choice and Tyler Marcuson added an RBI on a ground-out, Price bookended a strikeout with a pair of singles to start the fourth.

Sam Sewell, who went 2-for-3, plated both runners with a bloop single that somehow stayed fair down the right-field line. A charging Marcuson misplayed the ball, letting it scoot past him as he overran it, and Ferntheil and Crabb both came home to tie the game.

"That was the error that could have hurt us really bad," Butler said. "He's done a good job all year. Young guys put too much pressure on themselves sometimes. So he rushed it and when he rushed it, he just ran past it."

After giving up the fourth base hit of the inning, putting runners at the corners with just one out, Price -- who in his third appearance of the season allowed three unearned runs on nine hits and two walks over five solid innings -- worked his way out of the jam with a strikeout and a one-pitch pop out.

"He pitched an outstanding ballgame," said Butler, adding catcher Bobby Myles called a great game behind the plate. "He gave up a few hits, but you know, for a 16-year old, hasn't pitched, slowly but surely we're getting him to come around."

He surrendered a pair of singles to begin the fifth and threw over to first on an attempted pickoff when Ferntheil was trying to steal second. Thompson then dropped the soft toss, letting Barrus race home with what appeared to be the winning run.

"Young guy, he just went to make the play before he caught the ball," Butler said. "He just flat dropped it."

Larsen Kohler kept it a one-run game by striking out three over two perfect innings of relief in earning the win before the Twins' unlikely comeback in the seventh.

"Kenai did a good job coming back and taking advantage of what they had," said Service coach Steve Nerland. "So we expect most of the games here to be low-scoring games and you've got to have good pitching and good defense."

In the second game, Service beat Wasilla, 9-6. Earning the win for Service was Nolan Bodigheimer, while David Newman took the loss for Wasilla.

The Twins -- who take the field again at 3:30 p.m. today against Wasilla for a tourney and league contest -- improved to 2-1 on the season against the Cougars and will meet them again on Thursday at 2 p.m.

"They know that if we're going to do anything at state we have to beat this team," Butler said, "because they're well-coached, they're well-disciplined and they play extremely well."

Sounds like the Twins on Tuesday.

"That's definitely a good way to start it off," Gilbert said. "I think we have a good chance of winning this (tournament)."

Twins 4, Cougars 3, 7 inn.

Service 000 210 0 --3 9 1

Twins 200 000 2 --4 5 2

Wiles, Crabb (7) and Nealley; Price, Kohler (6) and Myles. W -- Kohler. L -- Crabb. LOB -- Service 5, Twins 5.

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