One proved to be a lonely number indeed Saturday, as the Peninsula Oilers earned a 1-0 win and yet still found themselves one win short of the postseason.
After beating the Athletes in Action Fire, the Oilers found out they won't be participating in the National Baseball Congress World Series, thanks to a 6-2 win by the Mat-Su Miners in Palmer.
The victory by the Miners left the Oilers a game out of first place in the Alaska Baseball League standings, tied for second with the Anchorage Bucs. Since the Bucs hold the tiebreaker with Peninsula, Anchorage received the league's second automatic postseason berth.
"All we could do was win," Oilers manager Aric Thomas said of Saturday's game.
The disappointment of missing the tournament spoiled a spectacular pitching performance by Oilers starter Steve Morlock. The Oilers ace went 8 1-3 innings Saturday, allowing just four AIA hits while striking out eight.
"He's been our ace all season," Thomas said of Morlock, a sophomore from the University of California at Santa Barbara who finished the season 6-2 with a team-high 58 strikeouts.
Saturday's game was a true pitcher's duel between Morlock and AIA starter Jeff Hanson, who pitched a gem of his own, giving up just nine hits in nine full innings and walking none.
After loading the bases with three consecutive singles by Nick Kliebert, Felipe Garcia and Nathan Faulkner, the Oilers wasted an early chance to get on the board against Hanson when right fielder Andy Dahl struck out and shortstop Chris Minaker grounded out to second base.
Neither team was able to put together much offense until the bottom of the sixth, when Faulkner's shallow single to right field scored Robert Perry, the Oilers speedy center fielder, from second base.
Morlock made the Oilers lone run stand up by mixing up well-placed fastballs and a wicked curve.
Following the game, Morlock credited his teammates for backing him up with fine defense in the field and just enough timely hitting to get the win.
Patrick Rooney of the Peninsula Oilers tumbles into second after colliding with Michael Jacobellis of Athletes in Action (not pictured) during a tag at second base in the second inning Saturday.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
"It was a great team effort," he said.
Morlock said that despite the fact that the Oilers had trouble getting to Hanson, the squad remained confident through the final out.
"We kinda knew in the back of our minds we'd get that run," he said.
Morlock finally ran out of gas with one out in the ninth inning, as he allowed two AIA base runners to reach with just one out. The threat was short-lived, however, after Thomas brought in relief pitcher "Every Day" Eric Butkiewicz.
With his 23rd appearance of the season, Butkiewicz set an Oilers single-season record. He didn't disappoint the home fans, retiring the only two batters he faced to get the save.
Despite the happy ending to the game, however, the Oilers will have to be content with a season that saw a winning ballclub and a record 10,000-plus fans bring renewed excitement to Coral Seymour Memorial Park.
Still, not making the NBC tournament hurts. Following the game, a disappointed Oilers General Manager Ron Lucia lamented the fact that his squad dropped four of its last six games to end up just shy of a postseason berth.
"We have nobody to blame but ourselves," Lucia said. "We had to win one more."
Notes: Morlock faced the minimum number of batters in five separate innings, at one point retiring eight straight batters ... Oilers mascot Scoop won its first race-the-mascot contest of the season in 24 tries when Oilers pitcher and former Florida high school track champion Brian Chambers stumbled rounding third base ... Oilers fan Scott Merritt became the first person to hit the basket all season in the KeyBank "pitch to win" contest.
OILERS 1, AIA 0
Fire AB R H BI Oilers AB R H BI
Jacobellis 1b 4 0 0 0 Perry cf 4 1 2 0
Barber ss 4 0 1 0 Kliebert 2b 2 0 1 0
Scheidt 3b 4 0 1 0 Garcia lf 4 0 1 0
Hall 2b 2 0 1 0 Faulknr 1b 4 0 3 1
Canada c 4 0 1 0 Dahl rf 4 0 0 0
Murphy rf 3 0 0 0 Minaker ss 3 0 1 0
Edmeades cf 3 0 0 0 Laguna dh 3 0 0 0
Meigs dh 2 0 0 0 Rooney 3b 3 0 1 0
Crain lf 2 0 0 0 Eichel c 3 0 0 0
Clemons ph 1 0 0 0
Totals 29 0 4 0 Totals 30 1 9 1
AIA 000 000 000 0
Peninsula 000 001 00x 1
E Minaker, Hall, Scheidt. DP Fire 2, Oilers 0. LOB Fire 5, Oilers 7. 2B none. 3B none. HR none. SB Faulkner. CS Canada, Edmeades, Perry. S Crane, Kliebert 2.
IP H R ER BB SO
Hanson, L 9 9 1 1 0 3
Morlock, W 8 1/3 4 0 0 2 8
Butkiewicz, S 2/3 0 0 0 0 1
HBP none. WP- Morlock. T 2:27.
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