The Peninsula Oilers opened their 2000 season Friday against the Oceanside, Calif., Waves at Coral Seymour Memorial Park and the final statistics were impressive: 2,486 hot dogs and 1,264 gallons of Coca-Cola served on IGA Country Foods-Coca-Cola-Peninsula Clarion night at the ballpark.
Oh yeah, the Oilers won too, rallying for five runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to defeat the visiting Waves 6-4.
"Does it remind you of last year?" said Oilers manager Gary Adcock, referring to the 1999 campaign during which the Oilers gagged the fat lady and made coming from behind in the late innings seem routine.
"I don't know if it's this field, or this uniform. In the eighth inning, I told the guys that either way, we're going to try to take good at-bats. Whether we got an out or we got a base hit, if we had one good at-bat, we were going to get another."
The Oilers did just that. Jeremy Reed led off the inning with a single and Michael Falco drew a base on balls to chase Waves starter Scott Honsowetz from the game.
Jeff Jones flew out to center field against reliever Eric Human, but Luke Simmons hung tough at the plate, fouling off several pitches before drawing a walk to load the bases.
Brad Carlson and Tim McCabe delivered back-to-back RBI singles, and after Human made way for Ariel Guitron, John Kaye singled to tie the game, and Doug Jumelet hit a two-run double to give the Oilers the lead.
While the late-inning heroics are reminiscent of last season's Oilers, the 2000 edition is made up of plenty of new faces. Adcock is back for his second year at the helm, but he has two new assistant coaches in Jumelet and Todd Whitehead.
Pitcher Chris Mabeus and Jones are the only returning players currently available to Adcock. Soldotna's Mabeus started Friday's game and went 6 1-3 innings, allowing three runs, two of them earned, on nine hits while striking out one and walking one.
A few other returnees should be back on the Kenai in the next few days. Soldotna's Jackson Coleman is on the roster and Danny Garcia is trying out for Team USA. The Oilers lost Scott Candelaria after he signed with the Milwaukee Brewers organization.
Adcock said he was happy to have Jones back in the lineup this summer.
"When we started putting together this year's team he's one of the first guys I called back," Adcock said. "He plays at such a high level based on his approach to the game. He's got talent, but he's also got the best approach to the game I've seen in a long time."
Adcock said he saw the same approach to the game in Jones' Long Beach State teammate Reed. Reed went 3-for-4 in Friday's game, scoring twice.
Jones, who set a dubious team record for being hit by a pitch last season, has made one subtle change to his hard-nosed approach to the game. He now wears a protective pad over his left arm and elbow at the plate.
"My trainer suggested it in the middle of the year -- he didn't want to see me in the training room too often," Jones said.
Jones said he was happy to be back on the Kenai this summer.
"It's always fun being out here," Jones said. "It's just a good experience, and there's some good competition up here."
Jones has some unfinished business from last summer as well. He was one of just a few Oilers unable to catch a fish last year.
"That's another reason I'm back -- to catch a fish," Jones said.
Adcock is expecting a few more players to make it to Kenai over the next couple of days. The trick will be getting everybody into the right spot without disrupting the chemistry that's starting to take hold.
"There's already some cohesion with the guys we have here, now we're going to sprinkle in guys here and there," Adcock said. "When those guys get here, we need to make them feel a part of things -- then the competitions begin. I think competition, when you have another guy pushing you for a spot every day, makes you better."
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