The Peninsula Oilers and Athletes in Action Fire played 16 1/2 wild innings Tuesday night at Coral Seymour Memorial Park before the game was suspended due to darkness after the Fire scored four runs in the top of the 17th inning to take an 8-4 advantage.
With many Oilers headed to Wichita, Kas. today for the National Baseball Congress World Series, the game, which lasted nearly five hours, was ruled a victory for the Fire, who, with a win today in Anchorage against the Anchorage Glacier Pilots, will claim the Alaska Baseball League title over the Mat-Su Miners by owning the season series with the Miners.
Mat-Su defeated the Pilots, 2-0, on Tuesday to finish the season at 24-11. The loss drops the Oilers to 17-18 in the ABL.
"Safety first with all of the players," assistant coach Dennis Machado told KSRM 920 AM following the game. "Most importantly it's about keeping the players safe and not trying to get anyone hurt."
The Oilers used 11 pitchers, including usual shortstop Adam Younger (two innings, no runs, one hit), first baseman Ryan Wilkes (one inning, three walks) and third baseman Toby Davis (one innings, four runs in 17th), while the Fire utilized only three.
That's because Fire starter Ryan Millard was dazzling through six innings, allowing only one run on three hits, before getting trouble in the seventh.
Owning a 4-1 advantage, Millard surrendered a single to David Genao who advanced to third on a deep double to center field by Robert Lundy. Following a conference on the mound, Steve Goins sent a grounder up the middle before it was misplayed by the shortstop, allowing Genao to score and Goins to reach safely. Lundy was then nearly picked off between second and third, but Millard's throw to second was in the dirt and scooted into center field, moving the runners to second and third.
A Juan Martinez ground out made it 4-3 and Michael Dabbs knotted the game when he drove an 0-2 Millard offering just inside the right field line for a stand up double.
The Oilers, though, nearly lost the game a lot earlier on multiple occasions.
After Joey Haug induced Kirk Nieuwenhuis to ground out to first, setting the new Oilers' single-season appearance record with his 24th of the year, Paul Smyth allowed a single before getting Joel Staples looking on a called third strike.
He then put two on with no outs in the ninth before inducing a pop out and grounder to quell the threat.
John Dunn then pitched an easy 10th inning, needing only six pitches to retire the side, but he, too, hit some trouble in his second inning of work.
With two on and no outs in the 11th, the Fire's Joey Lake struck out, Jamie McGraw flew out and Kevin Winn's grounder was snared by Kyle Melton, who gunned him down at first.
But the plays of the game belonged to Lundy, who made two spectacular, game-saving plays in left field.
With men on first and second after Wilkes issued eight straight balls to begin the 12th, Lundy made a horizontal, leaping grab to rob Bryan Root of a sure base hit, then quickly rose to his feet and doubled up Nieuwenhuis at second.
He did it again in the 13th, this time diving forward to steal a base hit from Lake and, again, doubled up Quinnlan Clair, this time at first base.
"I was lucky enough to be there," he told KSRM. "This has been one of the funnest ballgames of my life."
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