Fresh off an undefeated season at the University of California Irvine, going 8-0 in 16 appearances, Crosby Slaught's debut as a member of the Peninsula Oilers on June 21 didn't go according to plan.
The lanky right-hander admitted he didn't locate as well as he could have and his off-speed pitches weren't great in allowing four runs over just two innings of work during a 9-2 loss to the Anchorage Bucs.
Not exactly what he had expected.
"I had a couple of those this year," Slaught said. "So just forget about them and move on."
Gone. Vanished. Forgotten.
Slaught on Thursday more than made up for that uncharacteristic performance by throwing six innings of one-hit ball in pacing the Oilers to a swift 2-0 Alaska Baseball League win over the Athletes in Action Fire in the opener of a five-game set at Coral Seymour Memorial Park.
"I had a good mix of pitches going -- locating well with the fastball, change-up and slider working well," he said. "It's kind of what I expect of myself. I hope to carry on and get better. That's why I'm up here to get better every time."
Chad Smith allowed just one hit over three strong innings of relief in closing the two-hitter and vaulting the Oilers to an 8-7 mark in the ABL with their sixth win in their last seven games.
Slaught, however, was the story of the night.
Following that abbreviated outing on the summer solstice, Slaught skipped his next start, resting and nursing a sore arm before throwing in the bullpen and returning for an inning of scoreless relief on Monday.
Now back in the rotation, he proved why.
"He was Irvine's Sunday starter and won a regional game, so he's a winner," Peninsula manager Jeff Walker said. "Those are the type of guys you love to have on your team.
"Looked really good tonight."
Utilizing his arcing curve to strike out the side in the second en route to retiring the first seven batters he faced, Slaught didn't allow a base runner until walking Tyler Reeves, who then stole second and advanced to third on a ground-out. Slaught, though, whiffed Brian Kolb to escape the third unharmed.
"Definitely had some good bite on it," he said of his breaking ball. "I was locating it well. I was able to locate it for a strike and for a strikeout pitch. It really helps."
Despite hitting a batter and walking the next with two outs in the fifth, Slaught, who struck out five, again remained composed, getting Kolb to end the inning, this time on a fly to right.
The only hit he allowed, a one-out single to Ryan Enos in the sixth, was erased when Enos was caught trying to steal second. Ben Minard then grounded out to end Slaught's stellar outing after 90 pitches.
"He just took it to us. Dominated us with the fastball," AIA manager Rob Ramseyer said. "We just didn't compete very well against him."
Smith, another of the Oilers starters, entered in the seventh and struck out the first two batters he faced before benefiting from an immaculate play by his third baseman. Joe Kohan ranged to his left to glove a sharply struck ball off the bat of Aaron Parnell before spinning and firing to first for what looked like a routine out.
He needed no such fireworks in the eighth, sitting down the side on 17 pitches and then required an economic 10 pitches in the ninth to finish off the Oilers sixth league win in Kenai this season.
Walker could have turned to reliable closer Josh Corrales, but instead stuck with the University of Southern California product to close it out.
"Corrales was set up to close but Smith was just dominating," he said. "Might as well use that, so now we have him fresh tomorrow."
The Oilers squandered early scoring chances in three of the first four innings.
Garry Kuykendall, who walked to begin the bottom of the first and took second on a ground-out, stole third but got hung up between third and home before being tagged to end the inning.
Mark Tracy then started the second with a single and moved to second on a ground-out. He, too, was stranded when AIA starter and loser Charley Olson worked his way out of the inning with a fly to center and ground-out to himself. A third-inning single was also wasted, as was a two-out double to left by Stephen Hagen in the fourth.
"Their guy did a good job. He kept us ... off-balance," Walker said of Olson. "He was throwing strikes. So tip your cap to him."
Playing in his first game as an Oiler, Dearth Parker got the party started early in the fifth, opening the inning with a double to deep center before walking to third on a laser up the middle by Michael Miller, who proceeded to steal second.
Parker then raced home on a wild pitch to give the Oilers a 1-0 lead, scoring only because of an errant throw from catcher Trey Wimmer to Olson, who was properly covering home but couldn't glove the wild throw.
"We kind of caught a break there," Walker said. "It was probably not the greatest read and then they just didn't play catch to home which resulted in us scoring a run."
Following a 1-2-3 sixth, the Oilers got to Olson in the seventh. Ryan Fisher started the rally with a double to right field and scored on a first-pitch triple by Miller, who went 2-for-3 and knocked Olson from the game after 6 1/3 impressive innings.
"Your goal's always to try to win the series and if you take the first game, most of the momentum's on your side," Walker said. "But we've still got to come out and play tomorrow. AIA, one thing about them, they always compete and they always play hard, so you can expect that."
Oilers 2, Fire 0
Fire AB R H BI Oilers AB R H BI
Kolb 2b 4 0 0 0 Kykndl cf 3 0 0 0
Gbhart cf 4 0 0 0 Mllns c 4 0 0 0
Enos lf 4 0 2 0 Wllsn lf 4 0 0 0
Mnard 1b 3 0 0 0 Tracy 1b 4 0 1 0
Wmmer c 4 0 0 0 Hagen dh 4 0 1 0
Kievit dh 2 0 0 0 Fsher 2b 3 1 1 0
Price ph 1 0 0 0 Prker ss 3 1 1 0
Prnell 3b 3 0 0 0 Miller rf 3 0 2 1
Reeves rf 1 0 0 0 Kohan 2b 3 0 1 0
Schultz ss 2 0 0 0 ------ -- -- -- --
Totals 28 0 2 0 Totals 31 2 8 1
AIA 000 000 000 --0
Peninsula 000 010 10x --2
E -- Wimmer. LOB -- Fire 5, Oilers 6. 2B -- Hagen, Parker, Fisher. 3B -- Miller. SB -- Kuykendall, Reeves, Miller. CS -- Willson, Enos.
IP H R ER BB SO
Olson, L 6 1/3 7 2 1 1 3
Kidd 1 2/3 1 0 0 0 3
Slaught, W 6 1 0 0 3 5
Smith, S 3 1 0 0 0 3
HBP -- by Slaught (Reeves).
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