Maybe it was a players-only meeting Thursday night. Maybe it was getting more aggressive at the plate. Or maybe it was just the ebbs and flows of baseball.
Something woke up the bats of the Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks on Friday night at Coral Seymour Memorial Park.
The Panners cracked 16 hits, including two doubles, two triples and a home run, in defeating the Peninsula Oilers 10-1 in Alaska Baseball League play.
The Panners opened their season with three straight losses to the Oilers. In those losses, Fairbanks had a total of one run and 10 hits. By the third inning Friday, the Panners already had five runs and seven hits.
"I was a little surprised," Oilers head coach John Stevens said after his team fell to 3-1 in the ABL. "They didn't hit like that in the first three games at all."
The Panners were swinging freely from the get-go. The first seven batters to the plate did not see more than three pitches.
"The assistant coaches get credit for that," Fairbanks head coach Jim Dietz said. "They decided to be more aggressive and it really paid dividends."
Cole Thompson lasted just 2 2-3 innings in picking up the loss. He gave up five earned runs and five hits. Reliever Brandon Warner gave up two earned runs and five hits in 1 1-3 innings.
Fairbanks took an 8-0 lead in the fifth inning when Matt Nadolski hit an opposite-field, two-run home run off reliever Michael Coates.
Joey Epperson led the hit parade for the Panners by going 4 for 5 with four runs.
"We've got a good group of guys with a lot of talent," Epperson said. "A lot of it had to do with getting used to the environment and coming together as a team."
The Panners got production from Nos. 5 through 8 in the order. Epperson hits fifth, then Alex Schmidt was 3 for 4 with three RBI, Michael Zeblo had two hits and two RBI, and Nadolski added his towering shot.
"That's what you get in summer ball," Epperson said of the offensive prowess of the bottom of the order. "The coaches did a good job of recruiting talented athletes."
The beneficiary of the run support was starter and winner Jack Vander Linden. When Thompson got through the first inning on just five pitches, while Vander Linden took 20, the Oilers looked to have the advantage.
Vander Linden threw 87 pitches in five innings, but gave up no runs and a hit while striking out six.
"I was frustrated that I had such a high pitch count," he said. "At school, I can usually get into the seventh or eighth inning. It's just getting used to the feel of the ball and everything around here."
Vander Linden said the Panners had a players-only meeting Thursday night that mainly served to get everybody more comfortable with one another.
"We've only been together four days," he said.
Riley Heinzer had two of the six hits for the Oilers. Stevens would have loved a sweep, but he said taking three of four to open the season is fine.
"Sometimes a loss is good because you can get too complacent," Stevens said. "That's what happened. We have to rebound."
The Oilers host the Mat-Su Miners at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Goldpanners 10, Oilers 1
Rennr cf4110Alvrz 2b3010
Carrll ss5120Millr lf4010
Munoz rf5001Ymgchi 3b4100
Lee dh4121Rchdsn 1b3000
Ctsfrth pr0100Koch rf3011
Epprsn 1b0100Sthly ss4000
Schmdt 3b4033Ntbr dh4010
Zeblo 2b5022Hnzr c4020
Ndlski lf4112Ring cf4000
E — Carroll, Schmidt, Heinzer. DP — Panners 1, Oilers 4. LOB — Panners 6, Oilers 9. 2B — Epperson 2, Zeblo 2, Heinzer. 3B — Schmidt 2. HR — Nadolski. SB — Lee, Alvarez 2, Koch. SF — Lee.
Vander Linden, W510026
Thompson, L2 2-355521
WP — Thompson. HBP — by Vander Linden (Koch), by Priest (Richardson). T — 2:09.