True to form, the Peninsula Oilers and Anchorage Glacier Pilots played 14 innings Sunday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park, and nothing — or at least very little — was decided.
The two squads dodged the raindrops long enough to split a doubleheader and remain tied for first place in the Alaska Baseball League with 17-11 records. Both games were seven innings. The Pilots won the opener 4-0 while the Oilers took the nightcap 6-3.
For two teams that hooked up for 21- and 13-inning contests in their first two games against each other, staying deadlocked is nothing new. The series continues at Seymour Park with a 7 p.m. game today and a 5 p.m. game Tuesday.
"I think it's going to be a good series," Pilots head coach Conor Bird said. "We're pretty even. It took us 34 innings to get our first two wins against them."
The first game belonged to Pilots starter and winner Drew VanOrden. An injury to Kyle Freeland forced VanOrden to make his first start of the year, and he came through with flying colors.
He threw seven shutout innings while giving up three hits, walking four and striking out five.
"He has good stuff," Bird said. "He throws a lot of strikes and he throws 88 to 91 (mph) pretty easily."
Other than the first inning — when Alex Staehely was thrown out trying to score on a Riley Heinzer single — and the ninth inning — when the Oilers loaded the bases — Oilers head coach John Stevens said his team did not take good approaches at the plate.
Jon Maciel took the loss for the Oilers despite some, at times, dominant pitching. He went four innings and struck out eight. The Pilots took full advantage of opportunities against him, pushing across two runs on just three hits.
All of those hits and runs came in the fourth inning, when Axel Johnson singled to score Kevin Swick and Micah Green singled to score Jordan Luplow.
"He didn't throw bad at all," Stevens said of Maciel. "A starter shouldn't get a loss when he throws like that, but it happens sometimes."
The Pilots then tacked on two runs in the sixth against reliever John Straka.
Swick finished 2 for 3 with two runs, while Luplow was 1 for 2 with two runs.
Swick then helped the Pilots jump out to an early lead in the second game. Tyler Spoon started the game with a single, then Swick ripped a home run to left on Oilers starter J.D. Salles.
The Oilers were quickly looking at falling two games back in the ABL race and responded.
"We just took better approaches at the plate," Stevens said. "We had a sense of urgency in the second game that was completely absent in the first game.
"We don't have the ability to show up and win. We have to come ready to play."
The Oilers immediately battled back in the bottom of the first. Staehely grounded out to score Nate Ring, then Josh Delph singled to score Trey Richardson and tie the game. Both Ring and Richardson had reached on walks by starter and loser Sam Johns.
"Things went their way," Bird said. "We helped them out a little bit with a few walks."
The Oilers bats came alive in the third to chase Johns and provide the winning runs in the game. With one out, Staehely, Richardson, Delph and Frank Martinez had four straight singles. The Delph single scored Staehely and the Martinez single scored Richardson.
Jimmie Koch completed the rally with a two-out single that scored Delph and chased Johns.
The Pilots' big chance to get back in the game came in the top of the fourth, when they loaded the bases with nobody out. Salles limited the damage by getting Jordan Berger to hit into a double play that scored one run. Kevin Cornelius then struck out as the score stayed 5-3.
Both Stevens and Bird said limiting the damage in the fourth was a pivotal point in the game.
"Generally, we are going to trust J.D. with the ball in situations like that," Stevens said. "He is experienced enough to get out of situations like that."
Miller and Nigel Nootbaar then buttoned up the win. Miller cranked a belt-high fastball for a home run in the fourth, and Nootbaar pitched three scoreless innings in which he allowed just one hit.
Richardson, Delph and Martinez each had two hits for the Oilers in the second game.
Pilots 4, Oilers 0, Game 1
Spoon cf4000Ring cf4000
Swick 3b3220Millr 2b3000
Lplw rf2211Sthly ss3010
Jhnsn 1b3011Rchrdsn 1b2000
Kremr c2001Hnzr c3010
Green lf3011Delph dh1000
Bergr dh3010Stbbs lf3000
Crnls 2b3010Ymgchi 3b2000
Mrscl ss3000Hein rf3010
E — Mariscal. LOB — Pilots 3, Oilers 7. 2B — Swick, Luplow, Staehely. SF — Kremer.
WP — Straka.
Oilers 6, Pilots 3
Spoon cf4110Ring cf3100
Swick 3b4112Millr 2b3111
Luplw rf2010Sthly ss3111
Johnsn 1b3110Rchsn 1b2220
Kremr dh3010Delph rf4122
Green lf2010Mrtnz c3021
Bergr c3000Ymgchi 3b3000
Crnls 2b3000Koch dh3011
Mrscl ss2000Hein lf3000
E — Berger, Cornelius, Mariscal, Staehely, Yamaguchi. LOB — Pilots 5, Oilers 8. DP — Oilers 2. HR — Swick, Miller. SB — Swick, Green, Ring. CS — Cornelius, Richardson.
Johns, L2 2-375322
WP — Johns. HP — by Bublitz (Richardson); by Bayless (Miller). BK — Nootbaar.