With his team in a funk, Greg Anderson said the Peninsula Oilers needed a spark from someone.
On Thursday, teammate Patrick Wisdom stepped forward.
Wisdom went 3 for 4 with four RBIs and the Oilers moved within one win of clinching their first Alaska Baseball League regular-season title since 2006, defeating the Athletes in Action Fire 9-3 at Coral Seymour Memorial Park.
Wisdom, who leads the ABL with 25 RBIs, sparked the win with a three-run triple in the bottom of the fifth inning.
"That was a huge hit," Anderson said of his teammate's shot down the line in right field. "We needed someone to step up and get a big hit. Everyone settled in after that and kind of relaxed."
Peninsula (20-12 ABL) holds a 2 1-2-game lead over the second-place Mat-Su Miners (18-15) and can clinch the title when it hosts the Fire for a doubleheader beginning at 4 p.m. today at Seymour Park.
The Oilers have four chances to clinch first, with three home games against the Fire and a road contest Sunday against the Anchorage Glacier Pilots to close the season. The third-place Anchorage Bucs (16-17) have been eliminated from the race. Mat-Su, the defending champions, beat the Bucs 2-1 Thursday. Had the Bucs won, the Oilers would have clinched.
"It means a lot," said Wisdom, one of two returning players. "It would be great to win it for the fans and the organization - all the volunteers."
Not only did the Oilers move closer to the league crown with the win, but they broke a three-game losing streak in which the offense scored just four runs.
It looked like it would be more of the same Thursday as Fire starter and loser Andrew Work plowed through the lineup through four scoreless innings.
Work had retired eight straight batters entering the fifth, but he quickly lost his command. The left-hander walked Ryan McChesney and Anderson to open the inning. After Manny Reyes failed to get a bunt down with two strikes and Nate Ring hit a fielder's choice, Mike Miller walked to load the bases. Chris Mallory was then hit by a pitch, scoring a run.
That's when Wisdom cleared the bases with a deep drive, sneaking the ball inside the foul line and sending it to the wall in right field.
"It feels great," Wisdom said. "We just need to stay on a roll and get our confidence going heading into the playoffs."
That was all the support Peninsula starter J.D. Salles needed.
Salles cruised through five innings before he was chased from the game in the sixth with one out and two runners on base.
Marshall McDonald cut the lead in half with a two-run single to center field off reliever Mark Winkelman.
Salles struck out five and walked one in throwing 85 pitches over 5 1-3 innings.
"He was great tonight," Oilers coach Dennis Machado said. "He got us into the sixth and Mark (Winkelman) and James (Mannara) were able to get the game to the back of our bullpen."
eninsula blew the game open in the sixth against Fire reliever Jameson Stady.
Chris Talley dropped a sinking line drive off the bat of Reyes with the bases loaded and no outs, allowing two runs to score and giving the Oilers a 6-2 lead. Talley came up limping after the play and left the game.
After a Ring sacrifice bunt, Miller drove in a run with a deep fly ball to center. Mallory was hit by a pitch for the second time, and another run scored when Stady delivered a wild pitch with Wisdom at the plate.
Wisdom then singled to left to score Mallory and make it 9-2. That was the end of the day for Stady, who plunked two batters, walked another, threw a wild pitch and yielded five runs in two-thirds of an inning.
Reese McGraw pitched the ninth for Peninsula, which has used closers by committee all season. McGraw, Winkelman, Brandon Kizer and Tyler Blum have each recorded saves.
Machado wasn't prepared to say who will close for the Oilers when they open the National Baseball Congress World Series on Aug. 3 in Wichita, Kan., saying it's a work in progress.
As for the chance to clinch the league title today?
"That's something we can't think about," Machado said. "What's important for us is focusing on getting quality at-bats and playing the game well."
Miller, who leads the league in hitting but has slumped the past few games, said it was important for the Oilers to snap the losing streak before it got out of control.
"It was good for us to cash in tonight," Miller said. "You always want to stay mentally focused as well as confident, and winning definitely helps those feelings."
There will be free admission to both games Friday. Saturday's home finale at 6 p.m. is Fan Appreciation Night. Fans will receive free soft drinks and hot dogs, general manager Shawn Maltby said.