With four straight wins and a battle for first place in the Alaska Baseball League on their hands, the Peninsula Oilers are developing a team personality, and head coach Brian Green is pleased to see that confidence and intensity are part of the makeup of this year's squad.
The Oilers never panicked Friday when the visiting Mat-Su Miners tied up the ballgame in the seventh inning. Instead, the Oilers rallied for a run in the bottom of the eighth inning and reliever Doug Silva came on to cool the Miners' rally in the top of the ninth as Peninsula recorded a 5-4 win.
The Oilers kept battling Saturday, but one run was all Miners pitcher Bo Ashabraner would need as the Miners (6-3 in the ABL) reclaimed their half-game lead on the Oilers (5-3) with a 1-0 win.
"It's funny what one game can do for you," Green said, referring to Monday's come-from-behind, extra-inning win over the Anchorage Bucs. "All of the sudden, you feel like you can come back in any situation. We feel like we can score runs late, and that's a positive."
Justin Seely provided the late fireworks for the Oilers, leading off the bottom of the eighth with a triple to the wall in right-center field. Trey Hendricks followed with a single through the hole between third and short to push across the winning run.
"It's nice to contribute," Seely said after making his first appearance of the season for the Oilers. "I was just looking for a good fastball to hit, and I got it and got the bat head out. This was a tough game to win. These guys played awesome."
The dust flies at Peninsla Oilers catcher Creighton Kahoali tags Mat-Su Miners' Nick McIntyre out at home durint the fourth inning Friday.
Photo by M. SCOTT MOON
Oilers relief pitcher Nic Puckett got the first out of the ninth inning with a pop fly to short, and was relieved by Silva after a groundskeeper's single past Oilers second baseman Mark Teahen by the Miners' Kevin Randall.
Randall made it as far as third base, stealing second and then taking third on a wild pitch, but Oilers right fielder Wilton Reynolds made a long run to catch a fly ball in foul territory to record out No. 2, and Silva struck out Nick McIntyre swinging to end the ballgame.
"Guys are doing a great job on the mound," Green said. "We asked a lot of guys to extend themselves early, and they kept us close in the standings.
"Now we're getting more guys in every game that can come in here and contribute right away. Silva came out and attacked off the mound."
Silva and Puckett followed up for Oilers starter Juan Serrato, who went six innings, giving up two runs, one of them earned, on three hits and four walks. Serrato struck out five batters.
The Oilers struck early against Miners starting pitcher Matt Vasquez, chasing him from the mound after 2 2-3 innings.
Reynolds legged out an infield single to lead off the Oilers half of the first inning and advanced to second when a pick-off attempt by Vasquez went astray.
Teahen sent him home with a double to the wall in center field, took third when Luke Simmons grounded into a fielder's choice and scored on an opposite-field single by Creighton Kahoalii.
Jeff Dragicevich hit a one-out single for the Oilers in the second inning and Brian Horwitz followed with a single up the middle. Both runners moved up a base when Mat-Su's second baseman, Randall, made an ill-advised, off-balance throw in an attempt to get Horwitz at first. The ball barely stayed in play next to the Oilers dugout, and both runners ended up in scoring position.
The Oilers took advantage off the situation when Teahen blasted a two-run triple deep to left field.
Mat-Su narrowed the gap with a run on two hits in the fourth inning and a run on no hits in the sixth, then tied the game with two runs on two hits and a sacrifice fly in the seventh.
Seely, fresh from a College World Series stint with University of Nebraska, said he felt good swinging the bat, though he appreciated getting a day to recover from his jet lag after arriving in Kenai at 5 a.m. Thursday.
"We just got done with the World Series, and I was sitting at home with nothing to do," Seely said. "I couldn't wait to get up here and start playing again. When I first got into the game, I was a little anxious, and that probably hurt me a little bit.
"It's a little bit of an adjustment (to the wood bat), but having a week off probably helped me get my hands around today."
Green said he was pleased to see the Oilers rise to the challenge of playing a first-place team.
"We feel like we can come back from any situation," Green said. "With what our offense can do, defensively, that's feeding confidence on the mound and giving guys the ability to go after hitters.
"We said this series was going to be our first test. It's a chance to measure ourselves against a first-place team."
Miners 1, Oilers 0
The pitching duo of Bo Ashabraner and Nick Waak combined to cool down Peninsula's bats and snap its four-game winning streak Saturday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park.
The Oilers were able to scratch out just two hits against the Miners. Ashabraner picked up the win, going seven innings, yielding one hit and walking four. Waak pitched the final two innings, giving up one hit, for the save.
Cordell Perkins was the hard-luck loser for the Oilers. Perkins went nine innings and gave up seven hits and one earned run while walking four and striking out five.
The Miners used a two-out rally to score their lone run of the game. After Perkins struck out the first two batters of the inning, Willie Melendez doubled, then Donny Saba followed with a double that scored Melendez.
The Miners and Oilers will complete their four-game series with a 2 p.m. game today at Coral Seymour Memorial Park.
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