The top-seeded Glacier Twins wasted no time proving their well-deserved ranking as they went undefeated at the Montana/Alberta American Legion Western A District Tournament in Florence and clinched the championship with a narrow 6-5 win over the Bitterroot Bucs on Aug. 2.
The Twins (35-19) beat the Bucs twice in the four-day, double-elimination tourney, although both teams advance to the Class A State tournament, Aug. 6-9, in Lewistown. Glacier won the state tournament in 2014 and 2018.
Glacier got a bye through the first round of the tournament and began its dominating run on Friday, when pitchers Zach Veneman and Hayden Meehan combined to shut out the Kalispell Lakers 8-0. They then beat the Bucs for the first time Saturday, 5-3, before coming back strongly the next day to finish the job.
“All the games were competitive and close,” Glacier coach Kevin Slaybaugh said. “We were pretty happy to come away with the win.”
Slaybaugh is in his first year as the head coach of the Twins, after taking over from Scott Murray last fall. The Twins hired Slaybaugh in 2016 as general manager and he also served as the Twins’ board president.
Twins shortstop Stevyn Andrachick was named MVP of the tournament. In addition to his prowess at the plate, Andrachick substituted in as pitcher during the top of the seventh to close out the game.
“I don’t think he had a single error,” said Slaybaugh. “He got the last two outs of the championships game, and pulled it off in a pretty stressful situation.”
The Kalispell Lakers A team, which entered the tournament as the No. 5 seed, eked out a 6-5 win over the Libby Loggers in the first round before falling to the Twins and then losing out to the Missoula Mavericks in the losers bracket.
Glacier will enter the state tournament as the top seed from the West and will face off against the Gallatin Valley Outlaws on Aug. 6.
In the Class AA tournament, which begins August 5, the No. 3 Kalispell Lakers will face off against the Missoula Mavericks. The AA tournament will be played in Billings after Helena, the original host, did not get approval from health officials.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, sports at all levels have been delayed or canceled this year. The American Legion National Organization canceled the 2020 season’s regional tournaments and the American Legion World Series. It also shut down the sponsorship of all baseball for 2020, leaving teams that wanted to continue playing to rely on local sponsors.
Even with the top-down changes to this year’s season, the Twins haven’t allowed anything to distract them from playing ball.
“It’s been close to a normal season … we’ve had a few games canceled from the virus and have to be exceptionally careful at home,” said Slaybaugh. “But once you get on the baseball field, you forget about anything else.”
All games from the state tournaments will be streamed live at montanalegionbaseball.org.