The Peninsula Oilers handed Mat-Su Miners ace Chris Mason his first loss of the season in Alaska Baseball League action Thursday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park.
The Oilers took advantage of two errors by Miners shortstop Clayton Carson in the seventh inning. The errors led to two unearned runs that were the difference in the 7-5 victory.
The Oilers improved to 18-10 in the ABL. After a 10-4 victory by the Anchorage Bucs over the Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks Thursday, the Oilers now lead the Panners and Bucs by two games. Six of the Oilers' seven remaining games are against the Panners and Bucs.
The Oilers will look to stay on top of the ABL today and Saturday, when the Anchorage Bucs come to Seymour Park for a pair of 6 p.m. games.
"It was huge to pick up a win off Mason," Oilers winning pitcher Eric Butkiewicz said. "It gives us a lot of confidence, but the league's still really open.
"We want to take two from the Bucs, four from the Goldpanners, one from AIA and head to Wichita."
Nick Kliebert and Felipe Garcia started the winning rally in the bottom of the seventh with singles off Mason, then Nathan Faulkner moved the runners to second and third with a grounder to third.
Andy Dahl and Joey Hendricks both hit slow rollers to Carson, but he booted both of them to allow Kliebert and Garcia to score.
While Mat-Su gave away the game on defense, the Oilers' gloves played an opposite role in the game, turning four double plays.
The biggest came in the top of the seventh inning with Butkiewicz on the mound. With runners on second and third and one out, Oilers head coach Aric Thomas took the advice of assistants Thad Johnson and Brian Hickman and elected to walk John Hester to load the bases and bring up Scott Simon.
"It definitely went against the book, because Johnson would have been a right-handed hitter facing a right-handed pitcher, while Simon is left-handed," Thomas said. "Hester has been hitting us lately, though, and we knew Simon hits a lot of ground balls."
The hunch of the coaching staff paid off as Simon grounded into a rally killing double play.
"That was the play of the game right there," Thomas said. "We get that huge play and then come right back and score the two runs in the bottom of the inning."
Mason came into the game with a 5-0 record and a 1.64 ERA. Things looked bleak when Oilers starter Mathew Leva gave up three runs in the top of the first inning.
With Mason leaving the ball up in the strike zone early, the Oilers battled back for three runs in the bottom of the inning.
After the first inning, Mason was dominant at times, at one point striking out five of six batters. The Oilers pecked away at him by trying to make him throw a lot of pitches and by getting clutch hits. All seven of Peninsula's runs came after two were out.
Kliebert scored three runs in the game, while Garcia had two hits and two runs, and Faulkner and Hendricks each had two RBIs.
"I had a lot of success against (Mason) last time we played, too," Kliebert said. "He usually gets two strikes on me, but I keep battling and find a way to get on base somehow.
"He's a high-energy guy. If you can make him throw a lot of pitches, he's going to have a hard time finishing off the game."
After allowing the three runs in the first inning, the Oilers pitching staff, with help from the defense, settled down to have a solid game.
Leva ended up yielding five runs in six innings of work, while Butkiewicz picked up the win with two scoreless innings.
"Eric is the unsung hero of our team," Thomas said. "If I had votes for our team MVP, he would definitely get one of them."
Tim Robertson worked a scoreless ninth inning for his 10th save. That breaks the Oilers single-season record of nine, which was set by Jeff Bowman in 1999.
OILERS 7, MINERS 5
Miners AB R H BI Oilers AB R H BI
Bigler cf 2 1 0 0 Perry cf 5 1 0 0
Errecart rf 4 1 2 0 Kliebert 2 3 1 0
Hester dh 3 1 1 0 Garcia dh 3 2 2 0
Simon 1b 4 0 1 1 Faulkner 1b 4 0 1 2
Satin 2b 4 2 2 2 Dahl lf 4 1 1 1
Edwards 3b 3 0 2 2 Hendricks c 4 0 1 2
Munich c 4 0 0 0 Laguna 2b 4 0 1 0
Carson ss 4 0 0 0 Rooney 3b 4 0 1 0
Decater lf 4 0 2 0 Scobee rf 1 0 0 0
Minaker ph 2 0 0 0
Totals 32 5 10 5 Totals 33 7 8 5
Mat-Su 300 002 000 5
Peninsula 300 020 20x 7
E Laguna, Carson 2. DP Miners 1, Oilers 4. LOB Miners 5, Oilers 5. 2B Errecart 2, Edwards 2, Hendricks, Hester. CS Carson. S Errecart.
IP H R ER BB SO
Mason, L 6 2-3 8 7 5 2 8
Gilmore 1 1-3 0 0 0 0 2
Leva 6 8 5 5 2 3
Butkiewicz, W 2 1 0 0 2 0
Robertson 1 1 0 0 1 0
HBP by Mason (Scobee, Kliebert). T 2:48.
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