Minutes after his squad's seven-game win streak was snapped in a 2-1 loss against the Athletes in Action Fire at Coral Seymour Memorial Park on Wednesday, Peninsula Oilers coach Dennis Machado could do little more than credit the opponent.
Peninsula drops to 7-3 overall and 2-1 in the Alaska Baseball League and holds second place, while AIA moves to 5-4 in the ABL, sitting in fourth. The Mat-Su Miners (5-1 ABL) are in first, while the Anchorage Bucs (3-2) and Anchorage Glacier Pilots (0-7) hold third and fifth, respectively.
Peninsula and AIA continue the four-game series at 7 p.m. today at Seymour Park.
"It was just one of those nights where you have to tip your cap to the other guy," Machado said. "I'm pretty happy with the way the guys played."
Fire starter David Hayes gets most of the credit.
On a night when the Fire managed only two hits on offense and committed four errors in the field, Hayes was nearly perfect.
Hayes threw seven strong innings to earn the win, allowing one unearned run on 91 pitches. He walked one, struck out three and allowed four hits, overcoming three errors. The Fire's fourth error came in the eighth.
Painting the corners and mixing offspeed pitches with fastballs, Hayes kept the Oilers off-balance all evening.
Only a pair of errors allowed Peninsula to score the first run of the game in the top of the third inning.
Peninsula put runners on second and third with one out after Brent Peterson reached on a fielder's choice following a Jerrod Eigsti error off a Manny Acosta grounder to shortstop. Mike Miller then reached on a dribbler to third, advancing to second when Taylor Oldham's throw skipped past first baseman Trey Martin. Oldham was charged with an error on the play.
Chris Mallory's grounder to the hole at shortstop scored Peterson, giving the Oilers a 1-0 lead.
Hayes shut the door the rest of the way.
"He kept making pitches," Machado said, adding the Oilers hit the ball hard a few times. "The guys just need to come back tomorrow and do their job."
Peninsula's Jordan Mills received his third start this season and tossed 3 1-3 innings, but reached two-ball counts on 12 of the 15 batters he faced and three-ball counts on seven of them, walking five.
Mills threw 73 pitches - 36 for strikes - and ran his season walk total to 13 in 11 1-3 innings.
The Fire tied the game at 1 in the bottom of the fourth after Mills walked two consecutive batters with one out.
With runners on first and second, Cole Bullard sent a sharp grounder to center field and Zach Kerskey overran the ball, allowing Oldham to score.
That was the lone run Mills issued before he was pulled in the fourth.
The lanky left-hander, who issued 19 walks in 46 innings last season at St. Mary's College in California, received a no decision and is 1-1 on the year. He lowered his ERA from 6.75 to 6.17 despite the wild command.
Machado said Mills isn't doing anything mechanically wrong and will turn it around soon.
"Once he gets in his groove, he can be as good as any pitcher in this league," Machado said.
AIA took the lead for good in the bottom of the fifth when it put runners on the corners with one out against Peninsula reliever J.D Salles, who allowed one hit, an unearned run, struck out two and walked none in 3 2-3 innings.
"Salles did a really good job," Machado said. "He pounded the strike zone and went after the hitters."
Peterson committed an error on a Ryan Miller chopper to third, Jerrod Eigsti hit a sacrifice bunt and Scott Kalamar singled.
JJ Turbin then sent a grounder to second, allowing Miller to score on the putout at second.
In the top of the eighth, the Oilers got runners on first and second with two outs without needing a hit against reliever Revereriano Perez. Ryan McChesney reached on the Fire's fourth error of the game and Yamaguchi walked on four pitches.
But Kirksey popped out to shortstop to kill the rally.
Peninsula had one last chance in the ninth after Tanner Rust led off with a bloop single to left-center field.
Manny Reyes came in to pinch hit for Manny Acosta and sent Rust to second with a sacrifice bunt.
Troy Channing and Mike Miller committed the final two outs, both swinging at the first pitch they saw.