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Oilers snuff out Fire behind Miller's career day

Posted: June 24, 2011 - 11:45pm
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Manny Reyes beats the ball to second on a double play for the Oilers in the sixth inning Friday in front of Athletes in Action infielder Jerrod Eigsti.  M. Scott Moon
M. Scott Moon
Manny Reyes beats the ball to second on a double play for the Oilers in the sixth inning Friday in front of Athletes in Action infielder Jerrod Eigsti.

Hours before the Peninsula Oilers hosted the Athletes in Action Fire on Friday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park, Mike Miller had his worst batting practice of the season.

Minutes after the game, an 8-1 Oilers win, the shortstop was basking in the glory of a career performance.

Miller reached base safely all six times he stepped to the plate, going 4 for 4 with two singles, a double a triple and two walks. A night after he drove in three runs in another Peninsula win, he notched two RBIs, two runs and a stolen base.

"It was the worst batting practice I've taken in years," Miller said. "Maybe that's what it is. Maybe the worse the batting practice you have, the better game you have."

The Oilers and Fire conclude the four-game series at 7 p.m. Saturday at Seymour Park.

Peninsula, which moves to 9-3 overall and is in second place at 4-1 in the Alaska Baseball League, is off Sunday and visits the Anchorage Bucs (3-2, third place) in their first contest away from Seymour Park this season at 7 p.m. Monday. The Mat-Su Miners (6-1) hold first, while the Fire (5-6) and Anchorage Glacier Pilots sit in fourth and fifth, respectively.

What made Miller's night even more impressive was the effort he delivered at shortstop.

He registered eight put-outs, took part in two double plays and robbed three hits  with brilliant glove work and deep range.

Miller hasn't committed an error all season and he showed why on Friday. The Oilers finished with four double plays on the game and didn't commit an error. AIA, meanwhile, finished with four errors.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, Miller robbed Marshall McDonald of a base hit by knocking down a line drive to his left, scooping the ball up and firing it to first. He then teamed with Chris Mallory for a double play to end the inning.

Miller also made a diving stop to his left, hopped to his feet and threw out JJ Turbin to steal a would-be hit in the sixth.

Fittingly, the game-ending grounder went directly to Miller.

"For a single game this is probably my best offensive and defensive effort combined," Miller said. "It felt good. It felt good to help the guys get the win."

For the second straight night, Peninsula was productive at the plate. The Oilers pounded out 16 hits -- they had 12 in a 9-1 win Thursday -- and had at least one each inning.

Thirteen of the hits came against AIA starter Charlie Gillies, who allowed six runs in 6-2-3 innings and threw 120 pitches.

Zach Kirksey opened the scoring when he hit a two-out, two-run triple to the wall in right-center field to score Miller and Patrick Wisdom, giving the Oilers a 2-0 lead in the top of the first.

A pair of errors helped the Oilers score two more in the second.

AIA third baseman Taylor Oldham sent a throw wide of first on a Jeff Yamaguchi grounder before right fielder Scott Kalamar overran a Manny Reyes single, letting it trickle to the warning track.

Yamaguchi scored from first, and Reyes scored two batters later when Miller singled to center.

That was enough for Peninsula starter and winner Kellen St. Luce, who struggled to find the strike zone in the bottom of the second when he issued three walks.

Yet the Fire left the bases loaded and managed just one run, coming on a Ryan Miller sacrifice fly. St. Luce threw 25 pitches in the inning.

St. Luce allowed one run in five innings, walking three, yielding three hits and striking out one.

Each time St. Luce got in trouble, however, the Oilers' defense made a play.

Kirksey turned a shoestring catch into a double play in the third when he snagged a dying line drive off the bat of Mark Schoch and roped a throw to second to catch Kalamar off the bag.

In the fifth, Yamaguchi made an unassisted double play when he snared a Cole Bullard line drive and tapped first base to double off Jerrod Eigsti, who led the inning off with a single.

"Defensively, we've been really good this series," Oilers coach Dennis Machado said. "That's something from the mound the pitchers should be relying on."

Miller tripled over the head of Fire center fielder Turbin in the sixth to make it 5-1, driving home Reyes, who doubled.

An inning later, Reyes made it 6-1 with his third hit of the game, a bases-loaded single up the middle.

Miller opened the eighth with his fourth hit of the game, a double to left. He eventually scored on an Eigsti error.

Mallory, who reached base on a single, then scored on a Stady wild pitch to bump the score to 8-1.

Miller stepped to the plate in the ninth needing a home run for the cycle, but he received four sliders and walked on five pitches.

"The guys were hounding me about it -- 'Try to hit a home run, go for it,'" Miller said. "It just didn't happen."

Reyes had three hits, while Mallory, Kirskey and Troy Channing added two apiece.

Peninsula's relievers combined to throw four shutout innings -- the second time in as many days the bullpen shut the door on AIA.

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