Twins sport low numbers, high hopes

Posted: Friday, August 02, 2002

When things get extremely tough on a journey, it's best to take it one step at a time instead of gazing lustily, and foolishly, at the goal far ahead.

One step at a time is the tact the American Legion Post 20 Twins will take Saturday when they open play in the Alaska State American Legion Baseball Tournament with a 3:30 p.m. game against Chugiak Post 33 at Mulcahy Stadium in Anchorage.

Recently, things have definitely gotten tough for the Twins. They will be down to just 10 players for the state tournament.

In the District II tournament, the Twins lost three players from Juneau off their roster when it was learned those players were in violation of American Legion rules.

Also in the tournament, second baseman Nick Weigle was hit in the face on a pickoff throw and Eric Newby was hit in the hand while batting in Tuesday's championship game.

Finally, J.D. Pault will not be able to play at the state tournament because he's getting his wisdom teeth pulled.

Twins manager Lance Coz said Weigle will be available for the state tournament, although he may have to wear a batting helmet in the field.

That gives the Twins nine players.

Newby also could play, although his hand is still hurting so his contributions will be limited.

That gives the Twins 10 players.

Coz, in his 25th year of coaching the Twins, has never went to state with a team so low in numbers.

"We'll have to make it a long tournament from our standpoint," said Coz, whose team is 2-2 against Chugiak this year. "We're going to have to take it one inning at a time.

"We can't get caught peeking too far ahead."

The biggest potential problem for the Twins is pitching because they have just three pitchers -- Corey Grimm, Kenneth Butler and Ely Evanson.

In order to win the tournament, the Twins would have to play at least five games on consecutive days, to Grimm, Butler and Evanson can expect quite a workout.

"The plan is to have each one of them pitch three innings each game," Coz said. "By doing that, we could get through all five days.

"But it's a tournament, so if anybody struggles I'll have to pull them. Then, the plan doesn't work anymore."

Noticeably absent from the pitching rotation will be Juneau hurlers Bud Baun, who could give the Twins a complete game, and Will Ridgeway, who was good for four- and five-inning stretches.

Both Baun and Ridgeway are off the team, but will be in the dugout as assistant coaches.

"I think we do have a little bit of us-against-the-world mentality," Coz said. "That's why the Juneau boys want to be in the dugout.

"It's pulled the team together. Hopefully, we can use that extra emotion that we have."

But more than emotional baseball, Coz wants his team to play fundamental baseball.

"Fundamentals are what wins tournaments," Coz said. "Our pitchers have to stay away from walks, and when we get ground balls, our fielders have to make the play.

"On offense, we have to put the ball in play and make the other team's defense work."

Coz said offensive fundamentals will play an even bigger role because Newby, one of the Twins' big sticks, will be limited.

The Twins dealt with adversity just fine in the district tournament, defeating Fairbanks Tri-Cities Post 11/57 8-4 in the championship game.

Post 20 also won the Wasilla Fourth of July Tournament this year.

"I was quoted as saying, 'This could be a season to remember,'" Coz said. "It already has been because we've won the district and the Fourth of July Tournament."

To add to the memories, Coz knows the opening game against Chugiak is important. The tournament is double elimination, but if the Twins lose, they must play at 9 a.m. Sunday. A win means a game at a far more palatable 3:30 p.m. Sunday.

"It sets your momentum for the rest of the tournament," Coz said of the first game. "It's also important because it puts you in a better time zone."

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