With world-class fishing and outdoors opportunities aplenty, the Kenai Peninsula is a nice place to visit in the summer.
Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai can be a different story. Visiting teams in the Alaska Baseball League have traditionally had troubles at the park, and the Anchorage Glacier Pilots have been no exception.
This year, the Pilots left with the fish and with the victories.
The Pilots topped the Oilers 12-0 Tuesday to win the series 3-1 and take the season series 6-2. Jon Dyson, the general manager for the Pilots, told the Anchorage Daily News he thought this was the first time his squad went 3-1 in Kenai since 2002.
The series victory against the defending ABL champion Oilers puts the Pilots in good position to win their first ABL title since 2008.
The Pilots are 19-11, two games in front of the second-place Oilers (17-13). Both teams have 10 games left to play. There is not another team in the league above .500.
"It was a good trip," Pilots head coach Conor Bird said. "The weather was nice, the guys got out and got some fish, and we played some good baseball."
Perhaps the poster boy for the sojourn in "Anchorage's backyard" is assistant Jason Clements. Bird said Clements caught a salmon for his first lifetime fish. Clements' advice to the Pilots batters to get more aggressive in positive counts had a similar positive outcome.
After splitting a doubleheader Sunday, the Pilots had nine hits in a 10-1 victory Monday, and 20 hits in Tuesday's blowout.
Four Pilots had three hits — Kevin Swick, Axel Johnson, Kevin Cornelius and Chris Mariscal. Jordan Luplow, Micah Green and Jordan Berger added two hits, while Green and Mariscal — the Nos. 6 and 9 hitters — blasted home runs.
"When a team is that good and they take advantage of all your mistakes, they're going to beat you pretty badly," Oilers head coach John Stevens said.
Especially when Kyle Freeland is on the hill. The 6-foot-3, 175-pounder from the University of Evansville continued to dominate the league. He is now 4-0 and has not given up an earned run in 30 2-3 innings. He has struck out 24 and walked 11.
Even Freeland is now thinking about his scoreless streak.
"I didn't until it got above 20 innings," he said. "I shouldn't be thinking about it, but I'm thinking about it pretty much every inning."
He gave up just one hit in six innings against the Oilers, making a return after a minor injury from getting hit in the hand by a ball.
Freeland throws four pitches, and he said he has, for the most part, been in control of all of them this summer. The pitches are an 88 to 90 mph fastball, plus curveball, slider and change-up.
"Our catchers are doing a great job mixing it up and getting them to roll over and ground out," Freeland said.
Bird said Freeland's curveball, slider and change-up all come out of the same window, making it hard for hitters to differentiate those pitches.
"It's not like he has a big, sweeping curveball, but it stays on the plane of his fastball," Bird said.
Oilers assistant Kyle Richardson said Freeland has turned down a $250,000 pro contract. The assistant added that the home plate umpire said Freeland was putting the pitches exactly where catcher Berger was setting up, every time.
"When you have two or three pitches that you can control, let alone four, you're going to be playing this game for a long time," Stevens said.
The Oilers best chance against Freeland came in the fourth. Josh Miller, who had both the Oilers hits, started the inning with a single, then Trey Richardson walked with one out and both moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. Josh Delph and Riley Heinzer both made good contact, but hit the ball right at left fielder Green.
Freeland said it has been that kind of summer.
"I'll make a mistake and they'll smack it, but I'll turn around and the outfielder is right there or it's right to the shortstop," he said.
Jordan Mills took the loss to fall to 3-2 in league play. He pitched 5 2-3 innings, giving up eight hits and four runs — three earned.
In their chase to defend the ABL title, the Oilers play their next six games on the road. The Oilers start with 6 p.m. games at the last-place Mat-Su Miners today and Thursday. Jon Maciel starts today, while J.D. Salles pitches Thursday.
"Hopefully, we can get some wins against Mat-Su and build some momentum for when we head to Fairbanks," Stevens said.
Pilots 12, Oilers 0
Spoon cf6010Ring cf4000
Swick 3b5130Millr 2b4020
Natov 3b1010Sthly ss3000
Luplw rf6220Rchsn dh1000
Jhnsn 1b5331Ntbr ph1000
Krmr dh3100Delph rf3000
Grn lf5224Koch ph0000
Crnls 2b4132Hnzr c3000
Kpln 2b0000Mrtnz ph1000
Brgr c5021Stubbs 3b4000
Mrscl ss5232Ymgchi 1b3000
E — Kaplan, Berger, Mariscal, Heinzer. DP — Pilots 1, Oilers 1. LOB — Pilots 9, Oilers 7. 2B — Spoon, Berger, Mariscal. HR — Green, Mariscal. SB — Swick, Hein. CS — Swick.
Mills, L5 2-384324
WP — Freeland. PB — Heinzer 2. HP — by Freeland (Heinzer), by Mills (Kremer).