After two pinch hitters weren't able to knock in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth Thursday night, the Peninsula Oilers weren't about to try a third.
Jim Pollack, hitting a mere .077 (1-for-13) entering the contest, was left in to decide the game after already going 0-for-3 with a strikeout.
It might have been one of the best decisions of the season.
Falling behind 0-and-2 to Alaska Goldpanners reliever Cameron Litzenberg, Pollack delivered a base hit up the middle in sending the Oilers out of town with a 2-1 victory at Coral Seymour Memorial Park.
"I just wanted to get something to drive back up the middle," Pollack said. "The guy's a pretty good pitcher. He had some pretty good stuff.
"(The infield) crashed in right there so I was just looking for something I could get back up the middle and I knew I'd get it done," he added. "It felt great. To come back like that, it was a great game the whole game."
One day after falling 5-1 to the Goldpanners, the Oilers hit the road today for a pivotal 10-game trip, skipping town with a 5-1 mark during the past homestand.
But despite improving to 16-11 overall and 8-11 in the Alaska Baseball League, they are now 6 1/2 games behind the first-place Mat-Su Miners, who swept a doubleheader with the Anchorage Bucs on Thursday.
"It's a crucial win. It's a big win. It was, in a sense, a must win," said Peninsula manager Daniel Boyle, who wasn't around at the end of the game after being ejected for arguing with the umpires in the eighth inning. "It's good to have gotten it and now we can go on the road, relieving a little pressure, knowing we have to play these guys, again. So, now we'll have a little confidence going on the road. Maybe we can get it done."
Ryan Wilkes opened the ninth by also falling behind Litzenberg 0-and-2 before slicing an opposite-field single to left.
After taking second on a sacrifice bunt by Juan Martinez, Jeremiah Mejia pinch-hit for Robert Lundy and walked, but only after Wilkes scampered to third on a wild pitch.
When pinch-hitter Toby Davis went down swinging, the game rested on Pollack's shoulders.
And he came through, propelling the Oilers to their third straight victory in their last at-bat.
"Pollack did a good job there. Down 0-2, he just put the ball in play and he found a hole and that's all you can do with two strikes," Boyle said. "Once you get to two strikes, you have to battle and find a way to put it in play.
"We fought. We found a way to win and that's good," he added. "It's good to go on the road with a win."
The Goldpanners jumped in front 1-0 in the third off Peninsula starter Chance Deason, after already stranding four runners through the first two innings, when Brent Wyatt singled to left and came home on an RBI base hit by Shawn Bard.
But when Deason exited the game after allowing a run on five hits through three innings, the Oilers' usually reliable bullpen remained formidable.
John Dunn (three innings), Joey Haug (two innings) and Hiarali Garcia (one inning) combined for only four hits with six strikeouts in keeping the Goldpanners off the board.
Meanwhile, the Oilers knotted the game in the fourth when Nick Buss (3-for-4) blooped a single into center field, stole second and advanced to third on a Wilkes groundout.
Martinez then brought him home with when he slapped a double down the left field line.
"It's a good win going on the road. Now we've just got to figure out how to punch runs across late in the game on the road because that's what it takes," Boyle explained. "It takes competitiveness and it takes just playing with a little bit of heart when it comes down to the end and saying, 'Hey, you ain't getting me out man. I'm going to get it done.'"
That's exactly what they did.
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