The American Legion Twins split a doubleheader with the visiting Wasilla Road Warriors on Thursday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park. After losing the conference game 8-7, the Twins won the nonconference game 11-8. The Twins are now 10-8 in the league and 16-23 overall. Wasilla is now 10-6 and 13-12.
The Road Warriors scored seven runs through the first four innings and survived a Twins comeback to hang on for the win in the nine-inning, conference game.
With his team leading 7-2 in the fourth, Wasilla head coach Steve Mossburgh reminded his players not to let up.
"I always tell my team, 'You cannot let a good team back in the game,'" he said. "Kenai has a good team."
But the Road Warriors didn't heed their skipper's message. Wasilla recorded just four hits and one run and committed two errors through the final five innings while the Twins scored five runs on five hits.
After relieving starting pitcher DJ Stilchen, 15-year-old Tay Harling quieted Wasilla's bats, holding the Warriors to four hits and one run through 5 1-3 innings. Harling gave his team a chance to get back into the game, Twins head coach John Butler said.
"He came in and threw strikes," he said. "He came in there and did an excellent job."
Harling was honed in on the strike zone, yielding just two bases on balls.
"You can't have a bunch of walks," Butler said. "He had real good control."
Jake Darrow cut Wasilla's lead to three with a two-RBI blooper over the third baseman's head in the bottom of the fifth inning. Rhowe Stefanski added his second RBI of the game in the seventh to give Wasilla an 8-4 lead with two innings left.
With one out and two on, the Twins' Tyler Marcuson hit a two-RBI double to bring the score to 8-6 in favor of Wasilla. Ethan Oliver later grounded out but recorded an RBI on the play to make it a one-run game.
"Coach Butler is a good coach, and he got them back in the game," Mossburgh said.
With a recent busy schedule, fatigue was a factor in Wasilla's letdown, Mossburgh said.
"I think we just lost focus on pitching for a while," he said.
"We gave them some cheap runs early," Butler said. "We had our opportunities but didn't capitalize on them."
Butler said he was proud to see his team continue to play hard, even when trailing by several runs.
"They just kept on chipping away, chipping away, chipping away," he said. "We just got to get better starts."
The Road Warriors threatened to score in the top of the ninth with two on and one out, but Harling got Jonathan Boyer to hit into an inning-ending, 5-4-3 double play.
After AJ Hull grounded out, Braden Price reach on a walk. Price, representing the tying run, advanced to second on a passed ball and to third when Darrow grounded out. But he was left stranded when closer Damon Hammer struck out Mitchell Thompson to end the game.
Hammer, who went 4-for-4 with a run and an RBI in Game 1, is tough to keep out of the lineup, Mossburgh said.
"He's been coming around and hitting the ball well," he said. "Just hitting the cover off of the ball."
In the field, the Twins had a decent outing, Butler said.
"They played pretty good defense," he said. "We just have to hit the ball a little bit better."
In the nonconference game, the Twins came out strong, racking up eight first-inning runs.
"We came to the plate looking to attack the baseball," Butler said.
Price went 3-for-4 and picked up the win, pitching five innings.
"Overall, Braden played really well," Butler said.
Sam Bowler also went 3-for-4 and reached base four times.
"He did a really nice job," Butler said. "He was hitting the ball really, really well."
The Twins host Chugiak on Saturday in a 12:30 p.m. doubleheader.
Road Warriors 8, Twins 7, Game 1, 9 inn.
Wasilla 122 200 100 -- 8 9 2
Twins 101 020 030 -- 7 7 3
Stefanski, Comerate (8), Hammer (9) and Smith; Stilchen, Harling (4) and Marcuson. W -- Stefanski. L -- Harling. 2B: Covey, Marcuson. LOB -- Road Warriors 9; Twins 5.
Twins 11, 8, Game 2, 7 inn.
Wasilla 010 132 1 -- 8 11 1
Twins 810 002 0 -- 11 15 2
Christensen, Wisdom (1), Newman (2), Bydlon (5) and Grisson; Price, Marcuson (6) and Pickett. W -- Price. L -- Christensen. 2B: Smith, Mayo, Price. LOB -- Road Warriors 14; Twins 12.
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