One might think that the highlights of the Peninsula Oilers' 9-2 win over the Anchorage Glacier Pilots might revolve around Tim McCabe's three-run homer or Jeremy Reed's first-inning triple.
Or the highlight could have been the Oilers going 2 1/2 games up on the Pilots, their closest pursuer in the Alaska Baseball League.
But it was a defensive play that set the tone for the ballgame Wednesday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park.
"Jackson (Coleman)'s catch helped me out a lot," said Oilers starting pitcher Mike Miller. "That turned the game around for us."
With a runner on first and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Glacier Pilots' Chad Stewart drove a pitch deep to center field. The ball would have landed -- had it landed -- somewhere around the 405-foot mark, seven or eight feet shy of the wall.
It didn't land, though. Coleman put his head down, sprinted back to the wall and looked up in time to make the catch, much to the amazement of everyone in the ballpark -- including the Pilots' baserunner, who was halfway from second to third and was easily doubled up on the play.
"I'm probably making those catches look tougher than they should be," said Coleman, a former track standout at Soldotna High School. "I'm not getting the right reads on the ball right now. That ball was hit pretty well."
Coleman, and the rest of the Oilers outfield, have plenty of speed to overcome a bad read, and Peninsula coach Gary Adcock has been using it to the team's advantage in the spacious Coral Seymour Memorial Park outfield by playing the outfielders fairly shallow.
"We've got a lot of guys that can run and can cover some ground," Coleman said. "Any time you can take away a line-drive base hit, it's to your advantage. If a fly ball is hit over our heads, we can track that down."
The Oilers were able to do just that in support of Miller. The Glacier Pilots were able to put the leadoff runner on base in all but the seventh inning, yet Anchorage only could take advantage of it in the top of the eighth inning.
"It was a lot of work," Miller said. "I had a lot of defensive help, which made it a lot easier than it should have been."
In fact, the Oilers turned four double plays on the evening and committed only one error.
Miller allowed two runs, one earned, on seven hits. He walked three and struck out four.
"I worked behind all night -- but I battled back," Miller said. "(If their leadoff man gets on) you can't let that get to you. If a runner gets on, you get to work and try to make pitches to get a double-play ball."
Stephen Copeland came on in relief of Miller with one out and runners at the corners in the top of the eighth and induced a picture-perfect double-play ball from the first batter he faced to end the inning.
After surrendering a single to the leadoff batter in the top of the ninth, Copeland got a fly ball to right and another double-play to end the ballgame.
The Oilers offense was clicking just as well as the defense, with plenty of aggressive play on the basepaths, exemplified by a play in the bottom of the sixth.
With Danny Garcia sitting on second after hitting a two-out, two-run double, Reed hit a hard ground ball that looked like it might squeeze through up the middle.
Glacier Pilots second baseman Andy Neufeld got over to make the stop, but his throw to first was high and Reed was called safe on the play.
Garcia, who was moving at the crack of the bat, never stopped at third and was on his way home when Pilots first baseman Greg Dobbs fired a strike to the plate. Garcia slid head-first to the outside of the plate, though, and reached back with his hand as he slid by to get a piece of the plate but none of catcher S.C. Assael's tag.
Reed, meanwhile, saw the action at the plate and bolted for second, where he was tagged out to end a frantic inning.
"If you've got guys that can run, take advantage of it," Coleman, who had a stolen base, said.
Garcia's daring foray home made it 6-0 in the bottom of the sixth; McCabe's blast in the bottom of the seventh put the game away.
The Oilers are now 13-4 in the ABL and 23-7 overall. Peninsula faces Anchorage tonight at 7 p.m. at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in their last home game before visiting the Hawaii Island Movers for a seven-game series in Honolulu.
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