The American Legion Twins baseball team has a straightforward game plan for this weekend's state tournament: Accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.
"Our record is horrible -- we're 10-32 -- but this is a good team in my mind," said Twins manager Lance Coz. "We just have these breakdowns that swamp us. We're always fighting to get back in games -- we've beaten everyone in the state except Wasilla."
Indeed, a glance at the Twins' overall record might not lead to a feeling of optimism heading into the tournament, but a closer look at each game reveals a key moment here or there that determined the outcome, like an error that prolonged a rally or a lack of execution at the plate on the basepaths that snuffed one out.
And at the state tournament, the Twins get the chance to erase all those "what if's" that have accumulated since June.
"If we hit our high points, like we did sometimes during the season, we'll be all right," said Twins' Nick Weigle. "I'm definitely excited. I think some of the younger guys that haven't been to a state tournament don't know what it's like, but having been there before, you've got to go in feeling optimistic. It's a whole new season."
The Twins will have their work cut out for them as they open the tournament against the East Thunderbirds Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at Mulcahy Stadium in Anchorage. Anton Maxwell, arguably the state's top pitcher, is the likely starter for the Thunderbirds.
Then again, the Twins like their seed.
"I either prefer to be first or last (seed)," Coz said. "If you're the last seed, you go with your strongest opponent. If you are going to be a challenger, you match your best against their best."
Coz said the Twins' strategy would simply be to put the ball in play, even if it means squaring off to bunt on every pitch.
"Our philosophy will be just to make contact with the ball and make somebody play with it," Coz said.
Coz also likes the scheduling. By matching up against the tournament's top seed, the Twins are assured of a prime time game. Even if they lose, the loser's bracket game would be in the early afternoon Sunday -- no messing around with a 9 a.m. start.
And while wins were tough to come by during the regular season, if the Twins can string together a couple of victories, well, anything's possible.
"We broke the season into thirds," Coz said. "We weren't successful in the regular season, and we weren't successful in the district tournament, the second season. Now, we'll take a shot at state."
"We've beaten all the top teams, so we know we can beat anybody," said Twins' Robby Rounsaville. "Hopefully, we'll be able to go in there and pull it all together and end with a bang.
"We'll just try to stay in the game, try not to make any mental errors and keep our heads in it."
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