The Peninsula Oilers have shown they can come from behind in a game. Now the big question is whether they can come from behind to take an Alaska Baseball League title or a National Baseball Congress World Series berth.
Friday, for the second straight night, the Oilers notched a comeback victory over the Mat-Su Miners at Coral Seymour Memorial Park. The score this time was 4-3, with the winning run coming across in the bottom of the ninth inning on a Miners error.
The Oilers have now gone 5-1 in league play since getting off to an 0-5 ABL start. Played before a boisterous crowd of 1,200, Friday's game had the feel of the numerous comebacks the Oilers made from 1998 to 2000, when they were storming to three straight ABL crowns.
Peninsula took Saturday off before embarking on a six-game road swing that starts with a game against the Miners today at 2 p.m. The Oilers start the trip tied for fourth in the ABL three games behind the Anchorage Glacier Pilots. However, the Oilers are only 1 1-2 games out of second place and an NBC berth.
"I tell somebody every day that I believe in this team and the character of this team," Oilers manager Brian Green said. "This is a group that likes to compete.
"We didn't always execute tonight, but we kept fighting."
The Oilers grabbed a 2-0 lead in the third inning Friday, but Mat-Su starter Cody King buckled down and allowed the Miners to creep back into the game.
Mat-Su notched a run in the fourth inning, then tied the game on a crucial miscue in the seventh inning.
With Mat-Su's Mike Westfall on third and two outs, Miners manager Travis Young decided to pinch hit for Jeff Grady with Cole Armstrong. Green responded by relieving starter Tim Gorski with Adrian Schau.
Schau got Armstrong to ground to third, but Mike Cox let the ball get through his legs and Westfall scored.
"Our deal is we want the ball in the hands of our best guy in a situation like that, and we felt Schau's the best guy," Green said. "He rolled a ground ball, but sometimes that doesn't work out for you."
Mat-Su then grabbed a 3-2 lead in the eighth when Moises Duran walloped a home run to left field.
"I just grooved that one to him," Schau said, explaining the fastball wasn't as inside and low as it was supposed to be.
The Oilers responded to losing the lead so late in the game in the bottom of the eighth inning, when Daniel Underwood led off with a single to right, then moved to second on a sacrifice by Blake Jones.
After Paul Janish grounded out and moved Underwood to third, Green pinch hit for Chris Graziano with Chris Kolkhorst.
Both Kolkhorst and Graziano hit left-handed, which makes them dangerous against a right-handed, side-arm pitcher like Mat-Su's Aaron Rembert. But Green said Kolkhorst had more potential to get an extra-base hit.
Despite coming off the bench cold, and for a guy from Houston in Alaska that's no small thing, Kolkhorst stroked the first pitch he saw from Rembert into left field for a game-tying single.
"I was just looking for something to hit," Kolkhorst said. "He tried to get ahead of me right away with a fastball."
In the bottom of the ninth, Preston Griffin led off with a single off Miners reliever Phil Tripoli and moved to second on a sacrifice by Andy Schutzenhofer. Jerrod Brown was plunked by a pitch and moved to second when Griffin was cut down trying to steal on a botched hit-and-run play.
Green then inserted Jake Postlewait to run for Brown. The move paid off when Rusty Beale grounded to third and the Tobin Swope throw to first was high. First baseman Blake Gill got a glove on the ball, but it got past him to the fence and Postlewait scampered all the way in from second with the winning run.
"That's the way it's going to be in any wood bat league," Young said, lamenting not only the last error but a missed sacrifice opportunity in the top of the ninth. "You have to execute, or it's going to be pretty tough to win."
Kolkhorst said the victory gives the Oilers momentum as they head out on their road trip.
Peninsula Oilers third baseman Mike Cox scoops a groundball in the seventh inning Friday against the Mat-Su Miners.
Photo by M. SCOTT MOON
"It was energizing because we had the lead, gave it up, then came back to get it again," he said. "We're definitely on the rebound. This team is getting a lot better."
"We've almost put (the 0-5 start) behind us," he said. "We're starting to be more confident as a team.
"Tonight, we didn't bring our 'A' game and we still found a way to win."
On the road trip, the Oilers, who are 11 games into their 34-game league schedule, will face the Miners three times, the Anchorage Bucs twice and the Anchorage Glacier Pilots once.
OILERS 4, MINERS 3
Miners AB R H BI Oilers AB R H BI
Duran 2b 3 1 1 1 Wahlbrink cf 4 0 1 0
Swope ss 4 0 1 0 Griffin 2b 5 0 3 0
Gill 1b 4 1 1 0 Schutznhfr 1b 2 1 1 0
Nielsen lf 3 0 0 0 Brown dh 3 1 0 0
Westfall 3b 4 1 3 1 Pstlewait pr 0 1 0 0
Blood 2b 0 0 0 0 Cox 3b 3 0 0 0
Fossum dh 3 0 0 0 Beale ss 1 0 0 0
Ciaramlla cf 4 0 0 0 Underwd rf 4 1 3 1
Grady c 2 0 0 0 Jones c 3 0 0 0
Armstrong ph 1 0 0 0 Janish ss 4 0 1 0
McConiga rf 3 0 0 0 Graziano lf 3 0 0 0
---- -- -- -- -- Kolkhorst ph 1 0 1 1
Totals 31 3 6 2 Totals 33 4 10 2
Mat-Su 000 100 110 --3
Peninsula 002 000 011 --4
E -- Wahlbrink, Cox, Jones, Gorski, Swope 2. DP -- Mat-Su 2, Peninsula 2. LOB -- Mat-Su 4, Peninsula 11. 2B -- Westfall. HR -- Duran. SB -- Schutzenhofer, Duran. CS -- Griffin, Duran. SA -- Schutzenhofer, Jones, Fossum.
IP H R ER BB SO
King 6 6 2 2 4 1
Rembert, L 2 3 1 1 0 0
Tripoli 2/3 1 1 0 0 0
Gorski 6 2/3 4 2 0 1 3
Schau, W 2 1/3 2 1 1 0 2
HBP -- by Gorski (Nielsen), by King (Cox), by Tripoli (Brown). T -- 2:35. A -- 1,200.
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