The American Legion Twins' 5-3 victory over South on Monday to finish the regular season not only gave the team a boost of confidence, but also earned them a first-round game against Eagle River today at the American Legion state baseball tournament at Anchorage's Mulcahy Stadium at 2 p.m. The Twins, who finished with a conference record of 11-9, won three of four games against Eagle River (1-19) this season.
"We know we can beat Eagle River," said Twins infielder Jake Darrow at Wednesday's practice. "We're definitely confident."
The team needs to take each game one inning at a time, said leadoff hitter Braden Price.
"We can't look past them to South," he said. "We can't play stupid.
"We should come out on top if we play our game," Price said.
The winner of the Twins-Eagle River game will play South (12-8) on Saturday. Should the Twins meet South as they're expecting, they know winning is a possibility.
"If our guys play as hard as they've been playing, they'll be OK," Twins head coach John Butler said. "The last eight games you can see the guys gaining confidence and their fundamentals getting sounder. We're coming around at the right time of the year."
The recent win over South was a huge momentum swing for the team, Price said.
"It was a very big win," he said.
Chugiak is the only team the Twins haven't beaten at least once this season.
"We know we can beat anyone," Darrow said.
Darrow said the team needs to enter the tournament with intensity. Pitching and solid defense, too, are keys, he said.
Hitting won't be a problem for the Twins, Darrow said.
"I just know we can hit," he said.
"We need to make the plays that need to be made," Price said. "We have to be able to get the runs in that matter."
Limiting bases on balls is essential, Butler said. When the Twins were beaten handily this year, their pitchers had poor control, he said.
"If our pitching holds up ... we're pretty well-matched against everybody," Butler said.
There is a lot of parity among the 11 teams in the tournament, Butler said. He said Fairbanks (18-2) and Dimond (16-4) are the teams to beat due to their depth.
"This year, everybody is pretty much equal," Butler said. "It will be an interesting tournament. We could be there until next Friday or come home Sunday."
Playing error-free baseball will also be crucial for success, Price said.
"Defense is what really makes us play good," he said. Price said when the team's defense lacks, it affects the offensive production.
Mulcahy's turf infield will help reduce errors, Butler said.
"(The ball) does take true bounces," he said. "There won't be as many errors."
The Twins have to finish out games when leading, Butler said. This year the team gave up four, come-from-behind wins to opposing teams in conference games, he said.
"After we get up on a team, we need to keep going," Darrow said.
Price, too, knows how important persistence is. He said the Twins can't afford to fall behind in games against larger schools.
But should the team find itself trailing, the players won't panic, Butler said.
"We know what it's like to be behind," Price said.
"I think our guys are kind of used to it," Butler said. "If we get down one or two runs, these guys are good about staying in the game and coming back."
The Twins were anxious to start the tourney early this week. A handful of players called Butler on Tuesday night to find out who their first-round opponent was.
"I'm really excited," Darrow said. "I can't wait."
Butler knows he has a team that can make a run at the title.
"I have a lot of confidence in our guys," he said. "They care about each other. They're a good group of guys."
2010 American Legion State Baseball Tournament
Game 1 -- West vs. East, 11 a.m.
Game 2 -- Eagle River vs. Kenai, 2 p.m.
Game 3 -- Bartlett vs. Service, 6 p.m.
Game 4 -- Wasilla vs. Chugiak, 9 a.m.
Game 5 -- South vs. Game 2 winner, 12:15 p.m.
Game 6 -- Dimond vs. Game 3 winner, 3:30 p.m.
Game 7 -- Fairbanks vs. Game 1 winner, 6:30 p.m.
Game 8 -- Game 2 loser vs. Game 7 loser, 11 a.m.
Game 9 -- Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 2:15 p.m.
Game 10 -- Game 1 loser vs. Game 5 loser, 5:30 p.m.
Game 11 -- Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 10 a.m.
Game 12 -- Game 4 winner vs. Game 7 winner, 1 p.m.
Game 13 -- Game 8 winner vs. Game 9 winner, 10 a.m.
Game 14 -- Game 6 loser vs. Game 10 winner, 1 p.m.
Game 15 -- Game 12 loser vs. Game 14 winner, 11 a.m.
Game 16 -- Game 11 loser vs. Game 13 winner, 2:15 p.m.
Game 17 -- Game 12 winner vs. Game 11 winner, 5:30 p.m.
Game 18 -- Game 16 winner vs. Game 15 winner, 9 a.m.
Game 19 (3rd place) -- Game 17 loser vs. Game 18 winner, 1 p.m.
July 30 games
Game 20 (championship) -- Game 17 winner vs. Game 19 winner, 2 p.m.
Game 21 (championship, if necessary) -- If it's the first loss for Game 20 loser, 6 p.m.
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