In a year when the Glacier Twins are trying to make it back to the American Legion Baseball AA state tournament, beating the defending state champion is certainly a good way to build some momentum.
The Whitefish-based Twins defeated the Missoula Mavericks 10-8 on June 22 to snap a four-year, 16-game losing streak against the Mavericks. The last time the Twins beat Missoula at the AA level was in 2007.
Then, the following day, Glacier surprised the Mavericks again with a 12-7 victory. The Twins took advantage of 12 Mavericks errors in the two games, as well as the absence of outfielder Ben Roberts. Roberts, who was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the seventh round of the Major League Baseball amateur draft, was out of town.
The wins moved Glacier’s record to 18-16 overall and 3-4 in Western AA. Earlier in the year, the Twins had snapped a losing streak to rival Kalispell. Missoula dropped to 34-9 overall and 3-3 in the conference.
Glacier’s improvement this season under coach Lindsay Fansler has featured solid play at the plate, in the field and increasingly on the mound. The Twins’ pitching rotation has been coming into shape in recent weeks, led by Cody Hill.
The Twins’ batters have consistently posted double-digit runs, led by a balanced effort from top to bottom of the batting order. There are several players capable of producing three-hit games and driving in runs.
Kyler Blades, Carl Talsma and Devyn Rocker have all performed well lately. In the first victory over Missoula, Rocker batted 3-for-4 with four RBIs. Leadoff hitter Jeremy Nielson is also having a strong year, as is power hitter Geoff Streeter.
The Twins are trying to qualify for the AA state tournament for the first time in more than a decade. It’s been several years since they’ve had a winning record. The state tourney is held at the end of July in Butte. The top four teams from Western AA qualify.
The Kalispell Lakers are also fighting for one of the top four spots in the conference. Missoula and Great Falls are considered the frontrunners, with Lethbridge and Medicine Hat battling the Flathead Valley’s two teams for the other state berths.
Like the Twins, the Lakers boast a variety of threats throughout the batting order, anchored by Michael O’Connell. O’Connell is back from the University of Montana, where he’s on the baseball team, to play out his final summer of eligibility for the Lakers.
Head coach Ryan Malmin has been piecing together his pitching rotation behind Joe Pistorese, who has been staff’s ace the last two years. Pistorese was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 44th round of the MLB amateur draft in early June.
Malmin was excited to get Dillon Eaves back from a broken arm injury and Eaves hasn’t let down since his return. On June 21 against a talented Missoula lineup that included Roberts, the Diamondbacks prospect, Eaves allowed only one run, but a string of errors led to the Lakers’ 6-2 defeat.
The Lakers and Twins will both play in Whitefish’s annual Sapa Johnsrud Memorial Tournament on July 6-9. For more information on the teams and their schedules, visit www.glaciertwins.org and www.kalispelllakers.org.
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