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Oilers split a pair with Miners

Posted: Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Peninsula Oilers maintained a one-game lead in the Alaska Baseball league standings, splitting a double-header with the Mat-Su Miners Tuesday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai.

The series continues tonight at 6 p.m.

With the split, the Oilers, 16-10 in league play, stay a game up on the Miners (16-12) and the Anchorage Bucs (15-11), and 2 1/2 games ahead of the Anchorage Glacier Pilots (13-12), 4-3 losers to the AIA Alaska Fire (7-21, 10 games back) Tuesday. The fourth-place Alaska Goldpanners (11-12) are 3 1/2 games back.

“It does” motivate us, Oilers’ Brian Van Kirk said of being in the battle for the league title and a trip to Wichita, Kans., for the National Baseball Congress World Series. “We’re trying to eliminate Mat-Su slowly, but the Bucs are still on our trail. It’s motivating, trying to win the league.”

Game one of the double-header was a make-up of Saturday’s rainout in Palmer, and the Oilers were the visiting team in their own ballpark for the seven-inning contest.

The Oilers scored a pair of runs and then relied on some flashy defense to hold the Miners for a 2-1 win.

Van Kirk led off the top of the second inning with a double off the wall in right field. Van Kirk took third on a groundout to short by Andy Preston, and scored on a groundout to second by Erik Hagstrom.

“I struggled a little bit in the middle of the season — I fought through the mental game of baseball. I’m seeing the ball really good, and balls are falling for me,” Van Kirk said.

The Oilers scored what proved to be the winning run in the top of the third inning, loading the bases on three walks and a fielder’s choice as Miners starter David Phelps lost his command for an inning. The Miners cut down one runner with a force out at the plate, but Van Kirk then drew a walk to push across a run.

The Oilers turned in some nice defensive plays to preserve their lead. In the bottom of the fourth inning, with the Miners’ only run of the game already in, a runner on third and one out, the Oilers drew in the infield. Mat-Su’s Joey August hit a line drive to second, where Omar Padilla snared the ball cleanly, then doubled off the runner at third.

Oilers starter Ryan Tatusko went five innings for the win, giving up a run on fur hits with a walk and two strikeouts.

Jordan Meaker pitched out of a jam in relief in the sixth inning, striking out two batters to end a Miners threat, and Taylor Bills pitched a perfect seventh inning for the save.

In the nightcap, the Oilers made the most of their last at-bat as the home team, scoring three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, but it wasn’t enough to overcome an early deficit as Mat-Su posted a 5-3 win.

Mat-Su starter Tim Smith, who no-hit the Oilers through five innings and struck out eight batters, finally faltered in the ninth, when Rocky Laguna and David Newby opened with back-to-back singles.

Smith was lifted for Greg Keim, who got a groundout on a come-backer before surrendering an RBI single to Padilla and a walk to Preston.

Mark Willinsky came on to finish the game, sandwiching a pair of strikeouts around Hagstrom’s two-run single.

The Miners, after stranding five runners in the first five innings, broke through with back-to-back doubles with one out in the sixth, chasing Oilers starting pitcher Austin Yount. Runs scored on a single by Paul Gran and a sacrifice fly by Brent Milleville.

Mat-Su added three runs in the eighth as Daniel Magness picked up and RBI single, Milleville hit his second sacrifice fly and one more run scored on an error.

Van Kirk said the mental side of baseball involves not only adjusting to wood bats, but learning to play every day, instead of having weekend series and then several days off in between, as most college teams do.

“If you’re struggling, you don’t get a few days to work on what you’re struggling with,” Van Kirk said. “You’ve got to work on it in a game instead of a practice setting.”

Van Kirk said he hasn’t changed his approach at the plate, but said it’s challenging to hit with a wood bat.

“You see the ball, you hit the ball, it’s just harder. If you’re a major leaguer and you go 3-for-10, you’re a hall-of-famer,” Van Kirk said.

First game

Oilers 2, Miners 1

Oilers ab r h bi Miners ab r h bi

Kahlelio ss 3 1 1 0 Ercolano cf 2 0 1 0

Padilla2b 2 0 0 0 Coulter 2b 3 0 0 0

Newby cf 3 0 1 0 Brown rf 2 1 1 0

Van Kirk rf 2 1 1 1 Milleville 1b 3 0 1 1

Preston 1b 3 0 0 0 Magnss dh 3 0 0 0

Hagstrm 3b 3 0 0 1 August lf 3 0 0 0

Opdyke c 2 0 0 0 Gran ss 3 0 1 0

Clark dh 2 0 0 0 Hee 3b 3 0 0 0

Laguna lf 2 0 0 0 Ponciano c 2 0 1 0

Yount pr 0 0 0 0

Masuda c 0 0 0 0

Totals 22 2 3 2 Totals 24 1 5 1

Peninsula 011 000 0 — 2

Mat-Su 000 100 0 — 1

E — Tatusko, Phelps, Gran. DP — Oilers 2, Miners 2. LOB — Oilers 4, Miners 4. SB — Kahaulelio, Yount, Gran, Milleville, Ercolano, Brown. CS — Newby. 2B — Van Kirk, Brown.

ip h r er bb so

Oilers

Tatusko, W 5 4 1 1 1 2

Meaker 1 1 0 0 1 2

Bills, S 1 0 0 0 0 0

Miners

Phelps, L 7 3 2 2 5 5

WP — Tatusko.

Second game

Miners 5, Oilers 3

Miners ab r h bi Oilers ab r h bi

Coulter 2b 4 0 2 0 Kahlelio ss 4 0 1 0

August lf 4 0 1 0 Laguna lf 4 1 2 0

Ercolano cf 4 1 1 0 Newby cf 4 1 1 0

Brown rf 4 2 1 0 Van Kirk rf 3 0 0 0

Magness 1b 4 2 2 1 Padilla 2b 4 1 1 1

Gran ss 3 0 2 1 Preston 1b 3 0 0 0

Milleville c 2 0 1 2 Opdyke dh 2 0 0 0

Ponciano 3b 4 0 0 0 Hagstrm 3b 3 0 1 2

Krenke dh 4 0 0 0 Masuda c 3 0 0 0

Clark dh2 0 0 0

Mottern pr 0 0 0 0

Totals 33 5 10 4 Totals 32 3 6 3

Mat-Su 000 002 030 — 5

Peninsula 000 000 003 — 3

E — Masuda. DP — Oilers 1, Miners 1. LOB — Miners 8, Oilers 6. SB — Hagstrom. CS — Coulter. 2B — Ercolano, Brown, Magness. 3B — Coulter. SF — Milleville 2.

ip h r er bb so

Miners

Smith, W 8 4 2 2 4 8

Keim 1/3 1 1 1 1 0

Willinsky, S 2/3 1 0 0 0 2

Oilers

Yount, L 5 1/3 6 2 2 2 1

Koons 1 2/3 4 3 2 1 0

Matsumoto 1 0 0 0 1 2

Rider 1 0 0 0 1 1

Koons pitched to 2 batters in the 8th. Smith pitched to 3 batters in the ninth.



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