The Peninsula Oilers bullpen nearly did it all Sunday in the season finale at Coral Seymour Memorial Park — up to and including both serving as and beheading Scoop the mascot.
The bullpen pitched 6 1-3 scoreless innings as the Oilers topped the Anchorage Bucs 4-2 to forge a tie for second place in the Alaska Baseball League.
"They shut us down all weekend," Bucs head coach Tony Cappuccilli said. "They didn't give us many opportunities."
During the dominant performance, Oilers reliever Cole Thompson had time to throw on Scoop's suit before the middle of the sixth inning for the "Tag the Mascot" game. The whole bullpen stormed the field and Scoop's head ended up detached.
"I went down to the bullpen in the sixth inning and the bullpen seemed a lot more focused than usual," said Trey Richardson, who went 4 for 4 with a run and two RBI as the designated hitter. "That was until they did 'Take the mascot's head off.'"
Both the Bucs and the Oilers finished 21-19 in the league and 4-4 against each other. The Anchorage Glacier Pilots, currently at 25-14, will close out their championship campaign today.
Oilers head coach John Stevens said his team had a sense of urgency heading into Sunday's game that it had been lacking in the last few weeks, when the Oilers faded from the ABL pennant chase.
Part of that was the team playing its last game together in front of a festive Fan Appreciation Day crowd.
"This game meant a lot for us," said Oilers pitcher Mark Garcia, who closed out the win with a scoreless ninth. "This is a tight-knit group. We made a lot of close bonds over the summer.
"I made a lot of friends up here and it will be tough to say goodbye."
Garcia said the mascot hunt in the sixth was just one more chance to add lasting memories to the summer.
The Oilers were drawn even closer by a play in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader, when Brenden Kalfus barreled into Oilers shortstop Alex Staehely on a stolen base attempt.
Players must slide on close plays in the ABL — charging into a player is illegal — so Kalfus was ejected from the game.
"That got all the guys pumped up," Richardson said. "And, we definitely didn't want to finish in third."
Stevens said another key thing to come out of that second game was a complete game by Oilers starter Nigel Nootbaar, keeping the bullpen fresh for Sunday.
The Oilers charged out of the gate in the first, taking a 3-0 lead against Bucs starter and loser Mike Theodore. Garrett Stubbs doubled to score Jordon Hein, Richardson singled to score Stubbs, and Josh Miller doubled to score Richardson.
The Bucs cut the lead to 3-2 in the third on RBI singles by Garrett Mattlage and Chase Compton.
The Bucs had runners on first and third with two outs in the third, but "Scoop" Thompson relieved Oilers starter and winner Michael Coates and got Collin Ferguson to fly out.
The Oilers went up 4-2 in the bottom of the third when Richardson singled to score Stubbs. The rest of the game then belonged to the bullpen, the Oilers speedy outfield and heavy, fading-summer air at Seymour Park.
Thompson pitched an inning, Brandon Kizer pitched 2 1-3 innings and Brandon Warner pitched two innings to deliver the game to Garcia in the ninth.
The Bucs were not about to go down quietly. Anchorage set an ABL record for home runs in the wood-bat era with 52 dingers this year.
In the eighth, Zach Esquerra doubled with one out then Ferguson crushed a ball to center field. Nate Ring was able to haul that in with a bobbling catch on the warning track. Ryan Leonards ended that threat by lashing a screamer to center that Ring was also able to catch up to.
"Collin Ferguson told me he got everything into that one," Stevens said. "He told me, 'I thought it was a home run.' I said, 'So did I.'
"In this park, you have to have speedy outfielders."
Richardson also thought his double in the sixth inning was a home run.
But with high school football practice set to start today, Seymour Park buttoned up until next summer, and the Oilers scattering back to their colleges, the light summer air that led to seven home runs in the first three games of the series was gone.
"This feels better than finishing third," Stevens said. "They are an excellent ballclub. It was nice to finish strong by beating them twice."
Oilers 4, Bucs 2
Brink lf5120Ring cf4000
Mttlge ss5111Hein rf4100
Cmptn 3b3011Stbbs 3b4221
Sdrf cf4010Rchsn dh4142
Esqra rf3010Millr 2b4011
Frgsn dh3000Sthly ss3000
Lnrds 2b4000Mrtnz c3000
Mthu 1b2000Ymgi 1b3000
Wdwth c4010Dlph lf3000
E — Brink, Compton, Ring, Miller. DP — Bucs 1, Oilers 1. LOB — Bucs 9, Oilers 4. 2B — Brink, Esquerra, Stubbs, Richardson, Miller. SB — Hein, Stubbs. CS — Brink.
Theodore, L6 1-364204
Coates, W2 2-352220
BK — Coates.