The American Legion Post 20 Twins baseball team opened up the District II Tournament in fine fashion Sunday, defeating the Wasilla Post 35 Road Warriors 5-2 at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai.
The win advances the Twins to a showdown with the Homer Post 16 Mariners in the winners bracket of the double-elimination tournament today at 1 p.m. The loser of that game will face the winner of Sunday's Wasilla-Fairbanks Post 11 and 57 Tri-Cities 49ers losers bracket game.
Winners of today's games will face off for the tournament championship Tuesday at 1 p.m.
Homer advanced in the winners bracket with a 6-4, come-from-behind win over Fairbanks in the early game Sunday.
The Twins, however, only had to worry about protecting their lead in Sunday's game, taking an early 3-0 lead.
"It was nice not having to play two games today -- that was probably our biggest incentive," said Twins starting pitcher Ely Evanson of the advantage of winning under the tournament's format.
The Twins spotted Evanson a pair of runs in the top of the second inning toward that end. Derek Martin led off the frame with a single into shallow center field.
Martin stole second and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Nick Weigle. Martin scored on a looping single to center by Kenneth Butler, though Butler was thrown out trying to take second on the throw to the plate. Zack Hicks drew a base on balls, advanced to third on a single by Cory Janson and scored on a passed ball.
The Twins added a run in the top of the third inning. David Newby led off with a triple to deep center field and scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Weigle.
Newby led off the fifth inning with a smash over the left field fence to give the Twins a 4-0 lead, but Evanson began to run out of steam in the bottom of the fifth and the Road Warriors struck for a run before Corey Grimm came on in relief with one out and runners on second and third.
"I think we had one too many days off with the rain," Evanson said. "My arm felt weak from not throwing enough. It didn't feel natural. I thought it was good that I came out when I did."
The first Wasilla batter to face Grimm hit a hard grounder to third baseman Kyle Foster, who was able to catch the runner from third in a rundown. Shortstop Eric Newby eventually made the tag.
Grimm got a fly ball to center field from the next batter, and David Newby made a sliding catch to end the Wasilla threat.
"We got out of a big jam. That was a big lift for us," David Newby said. "We got it done when we needed to. That's what matters."
Wasilla scored another run in the bottom of the sixth inning, and threatened to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth with runners at second and third and no outs.
Grimm came through with a strikeout for the first out of the inning, then got a diving stop from shortstop Eric Newby, playing in on the grass to prevent a run from scoring, for out No. 2.
Grimm got an easy ground ball back to the pitcher to get out of the jam.
Post 20 added an insurance run in the top of the ninth inning. Weigle singled with one out and advanced to second on a single by Butler. Weigle was replaced at second base with Will Ridgeway after getting hit in the face on a pickoff attempt, and Ridgeway was able to scoot home on an infield single by Janson, getting a good jump and not even hesitating around third when Wasilla tried for the out at first.
While the Twins were pleased with the win, they also saw some room for improvement.
"We'll look to tighten things up on defense -- we had a few errors today, and we need to be a little better with our clutch hitting," said Oilers manager Lance Coz. "We're leaving a lot of people on base. When you get runners in scoring position, you want a little bit better percentage getting them in."
"We can always play better, but you've got to give some credit to Wasilla. They came out to play today," David Newby said. "We're happy with a win anytime, but this is just the first step. We want to win it all this year."
TWINS 5, ROAD WARRIORS 2
Kenai Post 20 021 010 001 -- 5 13 7
Wasilla Post 35 000 011 000 -- 2 7 2
Evanson, Grimm (5) and Baun; Wheeler, Semeler (6) and Sandvik, Harris (3). W -- Grimm. L -- Wheeler. 2B -- Wasilla, Coan. 3B -- Kenai, D. Newby. HR -- Kenai, D, Newby.
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