The Peninsula Oilers jumped into sole possession of first place in the Alaska Baseball League on Monday with a 5-1 victory over the Mat-Su Miners at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai.
The Oilers are now one game clear of the Miners and the Anchorage Bucs, who defeated the Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks 3-2 on Monday. The Anchorage Glacier Pilots, who split a doubleheader with the AIA Fire on Monday, are two games out, while the Panners are now 3 1-2 games out.
The Oilers continue their home series with the Miners with a doubleheader today, with game times at 2 and 6 p.m. A pair of 6 p.m. games on Wednesday and Thursday wrap up the home series.
Oilers starter and winner Andre Lamontagne gave Oilers coach Thad Johnson exactly what he was looking for Monday.
Lamontagne (3-2) went all nine innings, giving up one run on five hits while walking two and striking out three. He lost his bid for a shutout in the top of the ninth when Brent Milleville hit a double off the wall in left field to score Donald Brown.
“It was a great job by Andre as far as showing up,” Johnson said. “His last two starts haven’t been very good, and even his last three starts haven’t been really strong.
“Tonight, he was able to save the bullpen for the rest of the series.”
Lamontagne started the game with what could have been a bad omen for the Oilers when he fielded leadoff hitter Joe Ercolano’s ground ball and threw it wildly into right field.
Ercolano went to third base on a sacrifice, but the Miners couldn’t get him home and the bad omen turned out to be all Mat-Su’s. The Miners had runners in scoring position in four of the first five innings but failed to score.
The Oilers defense, despite committing three errors, made stellar plays to nip rallies in the bud. The Oilers had three double plays, including a diving catch by left fielder Rocky Laguna in the fourth inning that saved a run and doubled Brown off of second. David Newby also robbed Jay Ponciano of a base hit with a diving catch in center field.
“What it comes down to is even when you make an error, you’ve still got to be ready to make the next play,” Johnson said.
The Miners and starter and loser Brian Chrisman (3-2) also kept the Oilers off the board in the first three innings with some good defense. Brown, the right fielder, gunned down Jake Kahaulelio at the plate to end the third.
The Oilers struck first in the fourth inning when Brian Van Kirk took advantage of the rare windless conditions at the park and slammed a home run to left center. It was Van Kirk’s first home run of the year.
The Oilers’ big rally came in the sixth. Kahaulelio doubled and scored on a single by Omar Padilla to chase Chrisman. Reliever Mark Grbavac then gave up a single to David Newby and an RBI single to Van Kirk before he was lifted.
Miners reliever Craig Benningson came in with no outs and runners on second and third. He recorded two strikeouts, but Erik Hagstrom pushed across two more runs with a clutch single.
The Oilers collected 12 hits for the season even though they learned they will be without Chris Nelson for the rest of the season due to a chronically sore ankle. Nelson leads the team with a .347 average.
“You can’t replace a Chris Nelson,” Johnson said. “He’s probably the best baseball player in this league. We need some other people to step up. They need to stay a little more mentally tough and be a little more ready to play.”
OILERS 5, MINERS 1
Miners AB R H BI Oilers AB R H BI
Ercolano cf 4 0 1 0 Khllio ss 3 1 2 0
Coulter 2b 3 0 0 0 Padilla 2b 3 1 2 1
Brown rf 4 1 1 0 Newby cf 4 1 1 0
Milleville dh 4 0 1 1 VanKirk rf 4 2 2 2
Magness 1b 3 0 1 0 Preston dh 4 0 2 0
Gran 2b 4 0 0 0 Opdyke 1b 4 0 0 0
August lf 2 0 0 0 Hagstrom 3b 3 0 1 2
Hee ss 3 0 1 0 Pollack c 3 0 0 0
Ponciano c 3 0 0 0 Laguna lf 3 0 2 0
Totals 30 1 5 1 Totals 31 5 12 5
Mat-Su 000 000 001 1
Peninsula 000 104 00X 5
E Gran, Lamontagne, Padilla, Opdyke. DP Miners 2, Oilers 3. LOB Miners 5, Oilers 4. 2B Milleville, Kahaulelio 2, Laguna. HR Van Kirk. SB Brown, Kahaulelio. CS Coulter, Laguna. S Coulter, Padilla.
IP H R ER BB SO
Chrisman, L (3-2) 5 7 3 3 1 3
Grbavac 0 2 2 1 0 0
Bennington 1 1 0 0 0 3
Kost 2 2 0 0 0 0
Lamontagne, W (3-2) 9 5 1 1 2 3
Chrisman pitched to two batters in the sixth inning. Grbavac pitched to two batters in the sixth inning.
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