Perhaps the Peninsula Oilers, with their three-game sweep of the Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks in the final series of the regular season, were able to exorcise a few of the demons that have haunted them this season.
The Oilers scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning on a wild pitch to claim a 3-2 win in their final Alaska Baseball League game of the season, getting a bounce to go their way for what seems like the first time this year.
"At this point, it would have been real easy to roll over," said Oilers coach Brian Green. "The breaks will come your way when you persevere like that."
Wilton Reynolds drew a walk to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning and advanced to third on a hard-hit single to right-center field by Trey Hendricks.
Goldpanners relief pitcher Hank Logan came on to face Jackson Coleman, but Coleman never got a chance to swing the bat. Logan's first offering sailed all the way to the backstop, and Reynolds practically skipped home from third in his excitement.
"It's great to finally leave somebody else on the field, instead of them leaving us," said Oilers designated hitter Jamie D'Antona. "It's great to finally win some close ones."
The run in the ninth secured the win for Oilers starter Nelson Lopez, who allowed two runs, one of them earned, on eight hits and two walks. Lopez struck out 10 batters.
Peninsula Oilers shortstop Jeff Dragicevich makes a throw to first during the team's last home game at Coral Seymour Memorial Park Friday night.
Photo by M. SCOTT MOON
"He's given us a competitive outing every time. It's nice that he caught a break. He's been one of our leaders since Day 1," Green said.
D'Antona helped keep Lopez eligible for the win, supplying the hit to drive in the tying run with his triple to the wall in right field in the bottom of the eighth. The blast scored Brian Horwitz, who had drawn a walk, from first base.
"All year, our pitching has been great," D'Antona said. "Nelson pitched a great game and we had to help him win.
"I was pretty much just trying not to lose it for us. I was trying to come up for once and do the job. I got a pitch to drive and I hit it. It had enough to get out there."
Mark Teahen scored for the Oilers in the first inning, drawing a walk with one out. Teahen advanced on a single by D'Antona and scored on a single by Luke Simmons.
With the win, the Oilers finish their ABL schedule with a 13-20 record and a 20-24 overall mark. The Anchorage Glacier Pilots (24-11 ABL) clinched first while the Mat-Su Miners (21-14) finished second, one game ahead of the Anchorage Bucs. The Glacier Pilots and the Miners will represent the ABL at the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan.
The Oilers will wrap up their season with the Bucs Gillette Wood Bat Invitational slated for today through Friday at Mulcahy Stadium in Anchorage. Peninsula faces the Bucs today at 7:45 p.m. in the round-robin portion of the tournament.
"We've worked hard, and now that the ball seems to be bouncing our way. We have a chance to go home feeling good about what we've done this summer," Green said.
Peninsula Oilers' Jamie D'Antonabeats the ball to third base in front of Alaska Gold Panners third baseman Todd Leathers during the eighth inning Friday.
Photo by M. SCOTT MOON
In past seasons, the Oilers have used the tournament as a final tuneup for the NBC World Series. This year's team is looking to carry its recent momentum through the tournament and finish with a solid effort.
"This year, it's more of an opportunity for guys to be seen by scouts," Simmons said. "The challenge is to finish strong even though there's nothing on the line."
The Oilers will play seven-inning games through the round-robin portion of the tournament. The top three teams in round-robin play advance to nine-inning semifinal and championship games.
"You'd think that two innings wouldn't make that big a difference, but the importance of scoring early is huge," Simmons said.
Following the tournament, the Oilers will head their separate ways.
"This field, this community has been awesome this year, in spite of losing," said Simmons. "It's been a blast to leave here with a win. It's been fun. I'm thankful. I spent some time today praising God for the way he's blessed me over the past two summers."
OILERS 3, GOLDPANNERS 2
Panners ab r h bi Oilers ab r h bi
Strain 2b 4 0 0 0 Horwitz cf 2 1 0 0
Robinson 1b 5 0 1 0 Teahen 2b 2 1 0 0
Purdom cf 3 1 1 0 D'Antona dh 4 0 2 1
Leathers 3b 4 0 1 0 Simmons 3b 4 0 1 1
Long cf 4 0 1 0 Reynolds rf 3 1 0 0
Felton lf 2 0 0 0 Hendricks 1b 4 0 2 0
Dunwell ss 4 1 2 0 Coleman lf 3 0 0 0
Basch rf 3 0 2 1 Dragicevich ss 2 0 0 0
Davidson dh 2 0 0 0 Kahoalii c 3 0 0 0
Perez ph 1 0 0 1 ---- -- -- -- --
Cruz pr 0 0 0 0 ---- -- -- -- --
Spencer dh 2 0 0 0 ---- -- -- -- --
Dawkins c 1 0 0 0 --- -- -- -- --
Totals 35 2 8 2 Totals 27 3 5 2
Fairbanks 000 011 000 -- 2
Peninsula 100 000 011 -- 3
E -- Simmons, Hendricks. DP -- Goldpanners 1, Oilers 1. LOB -- Goldpanners 9, Oilers 6. 2B -- Hendricks, Basch, Leathers. 3B -- D'Antona. CS -- Simmons. S -- Teahen.
IP H R ER BB SO
McKenzie 7 3 1 1 3 8
Horner, L 1 2 2 2 2 1
Logan 0 0 0 0 0 0
Lopez, W 9 8 2 1 2 10
Horner pitched to two batters in the ninth. None out when winning run scored.
HBP -- by Lopez (Perez), by McKenzie (Horwitz). WP -- Horner. T -- 2:25.
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