Baseball is a numbers game, but there are times when the numbers don't do it justice.
Take this season's Peninsula Oilers. The Oilers won the Alaska Baseball League for the third straight season, putting four games between themselves and their closest competitors. The Oilers pitching staff posted a team earned run average of 2.39 while the team hit at a .265 clip and scored an average of 5.2 runs per game.
More impressive is the number of double plays the Oilers turned this season. In 46 games, Peninsula turned two a remarkable 43 times, and threw in a triple play just for good measure.
Perhaps the double play numbers are the best ones to judge this season's Oilers by, because of the teamwork involved, from the pitcher getting just the right pitch to the fielders playing the ball cleanly and covering the bases properly.
While the numbers are impressive, certainly the whole is much more than the sum of its parts.
The Oilers will throw all those numbers out, though, as they start their second season at the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan., today with a 7 p.m. ADT game against the Lake Erie, Mich., Monarchs at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. The game will be broadcast on 920 AM radio.
A win on Friday pits the Oilers against the Cotton State, Miss., All-Stars Saturday at 4:30 p.m. Should the Oilers drop Friday's game, they would move into the losers' bracket at the double-elimination tournament where they would play the Austin, Texas, Mudcats at 1 p.m.
"We're excited to get going," said head coach Gary Adcock after an Oilers workout earlier this week. "Once we won the league, the next goal was to prepare ourselves to be the best team we could be at Wichita, not necessarily the best team we could be at the Wood Bat. Once we get back to Wichita, we've got one goal -- winning ballgames."
Adcock will start Soldotna's Chris Mabeus in game one. After that, he'll choose between Ryan Prahm, Philip Tribe and Josh Scott, who was acquired from the Mat-Su Miners where he posted all-ABL numbers this season.
"I'm a lot more excited this year," said Mabeus of his third trip to the NBC tournament. "I threw a lot more, so I had a lot more to do with getting us there."
Mabeus said that the Oilers made the best of circumstances at the Wood Bat Invitational last weekend, putting themselves in a good position as they head into Wichita.
"More than anything, we showed everyone that we still had some fight in us," Mabeus said. "More than anything, we got quality at-bats against some good teams."
Those at-bats will be valuable for the Oilers at the NBC tournament as spectators will be listening for the crack of wood, not the ping of aluminum, at this year's tournament.
"That's a lot better for us," said Oilers' Randall Shelley. "You get those old ex-minor-leaguers swinging wood instead of those ultra-light aluminum bats that aren't even legal in college. They're not going to be putting balls out of the stadium like they did last year."
In addition to Scott, the Oilers picked up Jason Walker, an all-ABL outfielder who also gives Adcock a left-hander out of the bullpen, from the Miners. Pitcher Jason Waddell joined the team at the Wood Bat Invitational and threw two perfect innings, enough to convince Adcock he hadn't missed a beat since his college season ended two months ago.
"Oilers fans will see basically the same lineup they've see all summer," Adcock said.
The Oilers went all the way to the championship game last season at Wichita, and were bumped by the Dallas Phillies -- a team stocked, coincidentally, with many former minor-league players.
Shelley expects this year's Oilers to get one step further.
"We're going to Wichita to get a championship," Shelley said. "We've got a lot of hitters and we've got a lot of pitching. We've got a fun team. We like to have fun, and we like to win."
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