The Peninsula Oilers opened the season with a 9-6 loss to the visiting California Dons Thursday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, but the home side did show flashes of the type of play fans can expect this season.
While the Oilers did get a triple from Pat Cassa and doubles from Nick Kliebert and David Newby, Peninsula created most of its scoring chances playing small ball working the counts, stealing bases and laying down bunts.
"I think we set the tone," said Oilers head coach Aric Thomas. "We're going to run, we're going to be aggressive.
"It was the first night, and we wanted guys to swing the wood bat and get used to it. We're going to bunt more, and when we get a guy on, we're going to run."
Jacob Vasquez provided the big hit for the Dons, connecting for a three-run double in the top of the sixth inning to give California a 7-4 lead.
The Dons scored a run in the first inning and plated two more in the second before the Oilers were able to get on the board.
Nick Kliebert became the Oilers' first baserunner of the season when he drew a one-out walk in the bottom of the second and promptly stole second base. Kliebert moved to third and scored on a pair of wild pitches.
The Oilers tied the game in the bottom of the third inning when Kliebert, batting with runners at second and third, looped a double down the line to left field. Andy Dahl, who had reached on an error, and Joey Hendricks, aboard on a fielder's choice, scored on the play.
The Dons pushed another run across in the top of the fourth inning with the second bases-loaded walk of the game issued by Oilers' starter Oscar Serrato, but the Peninsula defense responded with a nifty double play against the next batter, started by Serrato on a come-backer to the mound. Catcher Hendricks got the force at home and was able to get the ball to first baseman Nate Faulkner in time for the out to end the inning.
The Oilers tied the game in the bottom of the fourth when Eric Newby drew a one-out walk, stole second and scored on a past ball and a wild pitch.
California regained the lead on Vasquez's three-run double, and while the Oilers were able to put runners on the bases in the late innings, Peninsula was unable to plate any more until the bottom of the eighth. A pair of Dons errors put David Newby and Eric Newby on base, and the brothers from Soldotna scored on a sacrifice fly by Pat Cassa and bunt by Nate Faulkner.
Those runs pulled the Oilers to within one, 7-6, but California added two runs in the top of the ninth to secure the win.
The Oilers did make several nice plays defensively, including a pair of inning-ending double plays, and Oilers baserunners swiped five bases during the course of the game.
"That's the make-up of our club," Thomas said. "We wanted speed, but we also wanted guys who could play defense and take care of your pitchers."
Serrato worked 5 1-3 innings and took the loss, surrendering seven runs on seven hits and seven walks while striking out two.
Eric Butkiewicz pitched 1 2-3 innings of relief, surrendering Vasquez's double (the runs were charged to Serrato) but notching a pair of strikeouts to end the seventh.
Steven Wright finished the game for the Oilers, retiring the side in order in the eighth before getting into trouble in the ninth.
Thomas said Thursday's throwers just needed to get some work in after not pitching for a few weeks and was confident they will improve as the season progresses.
"They're all going to be good guys for us," Thomas said.
The Oilers face the Dons again today at 7 p.m.
Chavez ss 4 2 2 1 Faulkner 1b 3 0 1 1
Skaggs 2b 2 1 0 1 Rooney 3b 4 0 1 0
Vasquez 1b 4 0 1 4 Dahl cf 5 1 0 0
Holton c 2 0 0 0 Hendricks c4 1 0 0
Rice rf 5 1 3 0 Kliebert ss 4 1 1 2
Lewis dh 2 1 0 0 Laguna rf 5 0 0 0
Echaves 3b 4 2 2 0 D. Newby lf 4 1 1 0
Gale cf 3 0 2 0 E. Newby 2b 3 2 0 0
Flannery lf 2 1 0 1 Cassa dh 3 0 1 1
Kemp pr 2 1 1 1
Parznyk ph 2 0 0 0
Davidson ph 2 0 0 0
Totals 34 9 11 8 Totals 36 6 5 4
ip h r er bb so
Cooper 2 2-3 1 3 2 3 2
Murphy, W 4 2-3 3 3 1 4 4
Arnold 1 1-3 1 0 0 0 1
Serrato, L 5 1-3 7 7 7 7 2
Butkiewicz 1 2-3 2 0 0 0 2
Wright 2 2 2 2 1 2
HBP by Serrato (Echaves). WP Cooper 2, Murphy, Wright 2. PB Hendricks, Holton 2.
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