3 Oilers combine on no-hitter

Posted: Friday, June 13, 2008

Not even Tom Myers knew what was transpiring.

When the Peninsula Oilers manager found out his team had made history with a no-hitter on a blustery Thursday night at Coral Seymour Memorial Park, he delivered the news his squad as they huddled around him along the first-base line.

From there, it was all smiles.

"I was surprised -- literally surprised and pleased," Myers said after his three pitchers combined on the no-no in leading the Oilers to a three-game sweep of the San Francisco Seals with a 3-0 win. "I haven't been involved in a no-hitter since I was a player. So, it's been some time.

"Who would have ever thought, you come up to Alaska and then you get your guys to do something like this," he added. "Right there for me, anytime you do something special like that, the focus was there."

Starter Brandon Dixon tossed four strong innings, Joe Gardner added three quick innings and Erik Draxton finished off the final two frames and the Oilers first no-hitter since Dennis Cook pulled off the miraculous feat against the North Pole Nicks in 1983.

"It was really nice to have that no-no," said Gardner, who also had no idea what was going on. "It's really fun."

The three hurlers allowed just three walks, two by Dixon, and only four baserunners while striking out five on an economic 112 pitches.

Making the accomplishment even more impressive -- it was the trio's Alaska Baseball League debut.

"We threw three good arms. A left-hander (Dixon) who kept them off-balance. Then Joe Gardner, a heavy fastball with good velocity. He attacks the strike zone. And then Draxton did the same thing, aggressive with his fastball and made them swing the bat," Myers explained. "So, that's encouraging to see new faces go out and do that the first time out."

Dixon dominated the opening four innings, allowing just the two walks, only one of which advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt in the third, and required only 34 pitches to make it through the third.

In the fourth, however, after inducing Wes Borden to fly out for the first out, Dixon engaged in a battle with San Fran cleanup hitter Ben Harty, utilizing the perfect blend of fastballs, curves and changeups, eight of which Harty drove foul, to get him to pop out on the 10th pitch.

"That guy swung the bat all weekend," Myers said. "He showed some definite power in his batting practice and I'm sure he's going to put up some numbers at New Mexico State with the high altitude there."

The Oilers, meanwhile, owned a precarious 1-0 edge at the time after P.J. Sequierra singled to open to the second and scored on a two-strike base hit up the middle by Anthony Aliotti, who drove the ball off the handle of the bat.

Gardner then picked up right where Dixon left off, needing just seven pitches, all fastballs, to get through the Seals' sixth, seventh and eighth hitters in the fifth inning. After beginning the sixth with a walk to Isias Alcantar, who moved to second on an Andrew Law sacrifice bunt, Gardner got Paul Olson and Borden to ground out to end the inning.

"I just wanted to get ahead, make and hit my pitches, get some ground balls and get out of there, be quick," Gardner said.

He, too, would fight Harty in the top of the seventh, again needing 10 pitches before inducing the first baseman to fly out on a nasty curveball. Dixon then emerged unscathed after getting Mike Malland and Alcantar to groundout.

"He's a fighter. He's a good hitter," Gardner said of Harty. "I noticed in the whole three-game series he's a pretty good hitter and I wanted to keep him off-balance and throw my pitches and make him hit mine, which he did. So, I was happy that he did that."

Draxton would get his turn with Harty as well, but not until after he escaped an eighth-inning jam by striking out Law with a 73 MPH curveball, which the leadoff man futilely swung at, leaving Nick Navarro stranded on third.

The Oilers then tacked on two more runs in their half of the eighth when Ryan McCurdy reached on a bunt single and took second on a sacrifice bunt by Angel Gonzalez, but not before he collided with Law on his way, resulting in an interference call and a free base for Gonzalez. Following a pair of walks to Daniel Boyle and Garry Kuykendall, the latter of which forced home McCurdy, and a line out by Tre Dennis, Vince Belnome grounded to first baseman Xavier Alcantar, who stepped on the bag but dropped the ball in an attempt to erase Gonzalez at home.

"Once again, our offense, Aliotti, a big two-strike hit to get us on the board early. From there, we just executed in the eighth," Myers said. "Drag bunt by McCurdy, sac bunt by Angel Gonzalez and then executional hitting. The only ball hit hard was caught by Tre Dennis. We'll take that all night long."

After getting Olson to pop out on just two pitches, Draxton faced Borden, who drove a 3-2 offering into foul territory along the left field line where Dennis and Boyle both raced to it from left field and shortstop, respectively. It was Boyle, though, not in the most desirable position, either, who made a spectacular diving catch, sliding toward the wall just in front of Dennis.

"I thought that ball was down for sure or the left fielder had it," Draxton said. "But Boyle, he goes all out, he loves the sport and that's the way it is."

Immediately following Boyle's highlight-reel grab, Draxton got Harty to fly out to center field to complete the no-hitter.

And it was only fitting that he needed just two pitches to do so.

"It's baseball. You get what you get. You play your heart out, so you do your best," Draxton said. "Basically, I threw a good pitch and he hit a good pitch."

One night after clobbering 17 hits en route to 17 runs against the Seals, the Oilers effectively managed a tight game in opening the season at 3-0 for the second straight year.

"You know what I really like is how they've already meshed together and they're buying into what the coaching staff is saying," Myers said. "But there's going to be games that we lose, no question about it. But if we have that mentality throughout the year, we have a better chance of being on the winning end in the long run."

Matthew Carroll can be reached at matthew.carroll@peninsulaclarion.com.

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