The Peninsula Oilers saved their best for last.
Trailing by a run, the Oilers turned in some flashy defense in the top of the ninth inning to snuff out an Athletes in Action Alaska rally, then strung together three consecutive hits in the bottom of the frame to send the game to extra innings.
The Oilers went on to win it in the bottom of the 12th inning, plating an unearned run for a 3-2 Alaska Baseball League victory.
“What won the game for us was Brian Van Kirk running down the line, and Austin Yount never let up,” said Oilers head coach Thad Johnson, referring to the players on the basepaths as the winning run scored.
Yount singled with one out to get things going for the Oilers in the bottom of the 12th. David Newby reached on an error the 11th of the game by both teams combined to push Yount over to second.
Van Kirk then hit a grounder to second that looked to be the double-play ball that would get the Fire out of the inning. The Fire forced Newby out at second, but Van Kirk beat the throw to first, and Yount, who never hesitated rounding third, scored easily on the play.
“That’s what we stress, playing hard. (Van Kirk) ran as fast as he could. That shows a kid who cares about the game and cares about winning,” Johnson said.
Johnson also complimented his pitching staff, which combined to allow four hits over 12 innings. Matt Trink picked up the win, pitching three hitless innings with three strikeouts. Oilers starter Chris Saddoris went 5 1/3 innings and was charged with two unearned runs on one hit and three walks with three strikeouts.
Kevin Matsumoto threw 1 2/3 innings of relief, walking one, and Jordan Meaker pitched the eighth and ninth innings, giving up two hits and striking out one.
In the top of the ninth, the Oilers found themselves in a jam with runners on first and second and none out. The Oilers then executed a wheel play on defense, with the third baseman and first baseman charging to field a bunt, the shortstop covering third and the second baseman covering first. Meaker, the pitcher, fielded the bunt by Travis Catalani and got the out at first.
The runners advanced to second and third on the play, but Oilers catcher Kip Masuda caught the lead runner a step too far off third, making a quick throw for the pickoff and the second out of the inning. Meaker then struck out Steve Shaver to end the inning.
In the bottom of the ninth, Andy Preston started the Oilers rally with a two-out single up the middle, and Masuda followed with a base hit to shallow left.
Ryan Mottern and Jim Pollack replaced Preston and Masuda on the basepaths. Rocky Laguna then slapped a single to right field, and Mottern was able to slide headfirst into the plate ahead of the throw.
The Peninsula Oilers took advantage of a miscue by the Fire to plate the first run of the game in the bottom of the second inning. Matt Clark, the designated hitter, hit a one-out double to left field and took third on a single up the middle by Jordan Opdyke. After a strikeout, Opdyke took off for second and when AIA catcher Ben Marshall squirted into the outfield, Clark was able to trot home.
The Oilers gave the run back in the top of the third, though, as Steve Shaver drew a walk, stole second and scored when Ricky Simpson reached on a fielding error.
The Fire took the lead in the sixth inning, aided by a pair of Oilers errors. Blake Stouffer reached on an error and advanced on a groundout. Stouffer took third when an attempted pickoff throw from Saddoris ended up in center field. Stouffer scored when Danny Morrow, with a runner on first, hit a grounder to second. While the Oilers got the force out at second, a bobble prevented them from turning what would have been an inning-ending double play.
The Oilers turned in a unconventional double play to get out of the top of the seventh inning. With one out and runners on first and second, AIA’s Simpson laced a line drive to center field.
Newby made a nice play to haul in the ball, then threw a bullet toward third to prevent the runner at second, Brian Asbill, from tagging up. Asbill tried for third when Newby’s throw was cut off and dropped by Oilers shortstop Austin Yount, but Yount was able to recover and flip to third where Preston applied the tag to end the inning.
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