After giving up a 6-1 lead, the Peninsula Oilers scored runs in the eighth and ninth innings to defeat the Anchorage Glacier Pilots 8-7 on Sunday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Alaska Baseball League action.
When Anchorage struck for five runs in the top of the seventh inning, the Oilers (6-2 overall) found themselves looking at a 7-6 deficit and a potential loss in their league opener to the Pilots (0-4, 3-8-1).
Peninsula tied the game in the eighth inning on back-to-back doubles by Tanner Rust and Jeff Yamaguchi.
In the bottom of the ninth, leadoff hitter Mike Miller reached base for the fourth time in five attempts with a double that barely eluded the glove of Pilots third baseman Trey Nielsen. The game of inches continued to favor the Oilers when Chris Mallory popped up a sacrifice bunt and Nielsen was unable to complete a diving stab in foul territory.
After Mallory sacrificed Miller to third, Patrick Wisdom hit a fly ball of medium depth to center. Clayton Eslick's throw was slightly up the third-base line, allowing Miller to slide under the tag of catcher Cael Brockmeyer.
"It shows we can come back," Rust said. "We were up by a lot, but we let them back in the game. We were able to still get the win."
Rust, who finished 2 for 4 with two runs and two RBIs, gave the Oilers a 2-0 lead in the second inning with a two-run home run just inside the right-field foul pole. Carlos Camacho got a fastball up in the zone and Rust, a switch hitter batting left-handed, took advantage.
After the Pilots cut the lead to 2-1 in the top of the third, the Oilers scored three runs with two outs in the third to take a 5-1 lead. Ryan McChesney had a two-RBI double, while Troy Channing had an RBI single.
The lead went to 6-1 in the bottom of the fourth when Yamaguchi, who was 2-for-4 with a run and two RBIs, conquered the fence in the typically unassailable left-center power alley of Seymour Park.
Holding a 6-2 lead, the Oilers bullpen ran into trouble in the top of the seventh. James Mannara gave up a single, double, walk and hit batter to start the inning and was lifted for J.D. Salles.
Salles walked Scott David to force in a run, gave up a two-RBI double to Brockmeyer, and yielded an RBI single to Nielsen. Suddenly, the Pilots had a 7-6 lead.
The gap could have been worse, but Brockmeyer was thrown out at home by Mallory on an attempted double steal for the second out. Salles then struck out Kevin Hall to end the inning and set up the late inning dramatics.
Those dramatics put most everybody on the home side in a good mood, but head coach Dennis Machado, who doubles as the pitching coach, was subdued after the game.
He was not happy his pitchers combined to walk four and hit two batters. Three of those six beneficiaries of free passes scored.
"From my standpoint as a pitching coach, it's not nice to see us unable to hold a 6-1 lead," he said. "Give the Pilots credit. They swung the bats when they had to."
Machado said eight runs is a lot to have to score to notch a victory at Seymour Park, which is traditionally a pitcher's palace. He gave his offense credit for prevailing in a contest where each club banged out 12 hits.
"We swung the bats well today," Machado said. "They took a great approach throughout the game. Having to score eight runs is way too many."
Paul Moeller, who came on in relief and held the Oilers scoreless for three innings, took the loss after giving up runs in the eighth and ninth innings. Mark Winkelman pitched a scoreless ninth to get the win for the Oilers.
The same two teams play at 7 p.m. tonight at Seymour Park.