Photo by Diane Cox
Twin City’s Randy Skiff connects on a base hit against the Missouri Tigers team.
Combining players from East Alton-Wood River Community High with those from Roxana High, the Twin City Junior Legion baseball team has proven it can play against the big dogs — and win.
“We’ve always been able to put out a competitive team, even when we were just primarily Roxana guys,” Twin City coach Dave Ufert said. “But now that we’ve combined the two, we’ve had a great turnout of quality players. Combining our schools has given us the best of both worlds.”
The teams Twin City face in their regular season and in district play come from Southwestern Conference and Mississippi Valley Conference schools, which on average are considered large and competitive teams.
“Considering the size of the pool we’ve had to chose from compared to these larger schools, it’s a real testament to the type of players we get from our two small schools and that we’re this competitive,” Ufert said. “I can’t ask for a harder-working bunch of guys. They’ve deserved their success through work and determination.”
Pitching can be considered the biggest challenge for most baseball teams at any level. Having a couple quality starters and relief pitchers are key to success. The combined team ERA is below 3.00.
“All the boys we have pitching have worked really hard the last couple of seasons to fine-tune things,” Ufert said. “We can go 9 or 10 deep and still have solid skill on the mound. And they’ve learned that you don’t have to strike everyone out to be successful; they can rely on their defense to back them up.”
Tyler Bress is the assistant coach for Ufert. Bress played for Ufert on the Junior Legion level in 2002-2004 and was a solid pitcher. He went on to play four years of college baseball and pitched in a prospect league. Bress is the Oilers’ junior varsity basketball coach, as well as the varsity assistant baseball coach at EA-WR.
“Tyler has been a great addition to the coaching staff as the assistant head coach and the pitching coach,” Ufert said. “He knows how to pitch and teach fundamentals, and help the guys to trust their pitches and have good mechanics.”
It’s a popular sports saying that offense wins games and defense wins championships. When it comes to Twin City, the players maintain they work harder on their defense than any other aspect of the game. They take it to heart, Ufert said.
“We always preach throwing strikes and playing defense is how to win in the big picture,” he said. “We are strong enough offensively to score runs, so if we can be exceptional defensive players, the winning will take care of itself.”
Twin City sent four players to the 2014 Junior Legion All-Star game earlier this month at the GCS Ballpark in Sauget. Logan Reardon, Blake Marks, Randy Skiff and John Whitworth represented the team. Marks pitched a perfect inning, Skiff scored a run and Whitworth hit a two-run double.
Twin City is 27-6 overall and 10-2 in District 22 play. The team still has a league doubleheader to play with Bethalto. The twinbill was rained out Monday.