The Anchorage Bucs scored seven runs in the 10th inning to defeat the Peninsula Oilers 11-4 on Friday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai.
The Bucs moved one game ahead of the Oilers in the battle for second place in the ABL behind the league-champion Anchorage Glacier Pilots. The Bucs are 20-17, while the Oilers are 19-18.
The teams finish out their season with three games against each other. They play a doubleheader Saturday starting at 4 p.m., and a single game starting at 2 p.m. Sunday.
The loss was the second straight for the Oilers in 10 innings, and the fifth loss in their last six games.
"They are a very good-hitting club," Oilers coach John Stevens said of the Bucs. "We couldn't keep them down forever. We kept them at bay for nine innings, but it wasn't enough."
The top of the 10th started portentously, when Oilers reliever Mark Garcia got Chase Compton, the leading hitter for average in the ABL, to strike out. The high fastball had so much juice it popped out of catcher Garrett Stubbs' glove, allowing Compton to reach first.
Danny Susdorf then reached on a perfect bunt, and Collin Ferguson walked to load the bases.
Then came one of the biggest at-bats of the game. The Oilers brought in John Straka to face Zach Esquerra. Esquerra finished an 11-pitch at-bat by singling to center to score Compton and Susdorf.
"Straka is filthy. That guy is dirty. He's no joke," Bucs head coach Tony Cappuccilli said. "He made a bunch of good pitches and Zach was able to foul them off."
Stevens also gave credit to Esquerra for a great at-bat. He said that even if Straka had gotten Esquerra, making a pitcher throw 11 pitches tires the pitcher out for later batters.
After that at-bat, the Bucs poured it on, getting three more hits to score five more runs.
Just as important as the 10th-inning rally was the 8th-inning rally that never happened for the Oilers.
Peninsula loaded the bases with one out on Bucs reliever James Mannara, who had pitched for the Oilers last year. In came Braden Shipley, who was recently named the top prospect in the ABL.
Shipley lived up to his billing, going to a full count on Jeff Yamaguchi before striking him out on an outside fastball.
"Jeff had a good at-bat," Stevens said. "A guy that throws that hard and puts it exactly where he wants to will come out on top every time."
Nate Ring then struck out to end the threat.
"He hit 97 at the scouts showcase and he stays in the low to mid-90s," Cappuccilli said of Shipley's velocity. "We've used him in the closer's role. He won the top prospect for a reason."
The Bucs did most of the rest of their damage with the long ball. Seymour Park is a notoriously tough place to homer, but that was not the case Friday with temperatures in the high 60s and no wind.
Stephen Wadsworth homered for the Bucs in the second inning, while Brenden Kalfus and Chase Compton went yard in the third inning.
The Bucs now have 52 homers in league play. The league went to wood bats in 1998, and the previous Bucs record in the wood-bat era was 22 dingers in 1999. The Bucs had just eight home runs in league play last year.
"After last year, I wanted more pop in the lineup," Cappuccilli said. "I made it a point to get some guys who would bring some more pop to the lineup. I didn't know it would be like this."
Nate Ring homered for the Oilers to tie the game at 4 in the seventh inning.
The Oilers did get 12 hits to the Bucs' 16, but early lost opportunities would cost Peninsula late.
In the first inning, the Oilers had two runs in and a runner on second with no outs when Trey Richardson lined to second, and Stubbs was doubled off second.
In the second, the Oilers had runners on first and second with no outs, when Yamaguchi lined to second and Frank Martinez was doubled off first.
In the third, Stubbs was thrown out trying to stretch a double to a triple for the second out of the inning. The Oilers would go on to load the bases in that inning, but get no runs.
Compton led the Bucs with four hits, while Kalfus and Susdorf each had three. Stubbs had three hits for the Oilers.