It's not how you start, it's how you finish.
The American Legion Twins started their season with the worst beginning in club history, going 0-4 in the league and 0-8 overall.
The Twins finished by advancing all the way to the championship of the state tournament before falling to Chugiak 4-3 on Thursday at Mulcahy Stadium in Anchorage.
The runner-up finish by the Twins is the local nine's best since a 1996 state championship. After losing their second tourney game, the Twins won four straight to reach the title tilt.
After the Twins got off to an 0-4 start in the league, Twins manager John Butler told the team that it was better than that record. The team proved Butler right by winning six straight league games and finishing with a 10-10 league record to earn the sixth seed at the state tournament.
"They kept working at it and got a little better each week and each game," Butler said. "We just could never shake that critical error we would always make."
Dimond, which finished 19-1 in the league to earn the tourney's top seed, came into Thursday undefeated in the tourney, so the Twins had to defeat Dimond twice to win the championship.
The game was tied at 2 in the bottom of the sixth when the Twins made their crucial errors. Two errors in the inning led to two unearned runs for Dimond.
The Twins tried to mount a comeback in the top of the eighth inning. With one out, Ethan Waters singled and Josh Gilbert walked.
The two moved up a base on a Kris Netschert ground-out. Bobby Myles then singled up the middle. Waters scored, but Gilbert --the tying run -- was thrown out at the plate.
"It was an extremely close play at home," Butler said. "The people in the stands said he was safe.
"The umpire saw what he saw. That's the way it is."
In the ninth, Jake Darrow led off for the Twins and struck out, but advanced to first on a dropped third strike. Darrow got as far as second base on a wild pitch, but the final two Twins hitters of the game struck out.
"I'm not sure these guys could have given any more than they gave," Butler said. "If we just would have cut down on a couple of errors, I really believe we would have won the game."
The Twins made five errors, while Chugiak made only one.
Mike Griffin got the start and took the loss, allowing four runs -- one earned -- in six innings. Griffin walked three, hit three and struck out one.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Griffin kept pitching even though there was a 45-minute rain delay in the frame.
"He pitched a great ballgame," Butler said of Griffin. "His control just wasn't as sharp as it was the other day."
In the bottom of the seventh inning, a hail delay knocked Griffin out of the game after he had walked the first batter.
Chugiak eventually put runners on second and third with one out against reliever Ben Stalker, but Stalker got out of the jam with a strikeout and a fly out.
"He just said, 'Give me the ball. I'll get out of this jam,' in the seventh," Butler said.
The Twins also got out of several other jams in the game. In the second, a relay throw from left fielder Larsen Kohler to third baseman Netschert to catcher Waters cut down Tyler Belk trying to score on a double by Avery Beck.
In the fourth, the Twins pitched out on a suicide squeeze to get out of a jam.
The Twins took the lead in the top of the first when Netschert singled to score Gilbert.
After Chugiak grabbed a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth, the Twins tied the game in the top of the fifth when Justice Elson singled and eventually scored on a wild pitch.
Butler said a large part of the team's resilience this year is due to senior players Stalker, Netschert and Waters.
"I've had those guys for five years," Butler said. "It's impressive how hard they've worked over the years."
Butler said the senior players did a great job of mentoring the younger players.
"I think our young guys are looking forward to next year, now that they've gotten a good look at what it takes to win it," Butler said.
Butler also thanked the community for supporting the Twins in their title quest. He said there was a crowd of about 100 people there from the peninsula.
"Ten or 12 ex-players came by and wished us good luck," Butler said. "It was really nice to see."
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