A disastrous closeout inning by the Peninsula Oilers ruined a sparkling outing for Soldotna pitcher Joey Becher and opened up the door for the Anchorage Bucs to walk away with a 5-2 victory and a doubleheader sweep Friday night at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai.
The Bucs won the opener 8-2, then rallied to win the nightcap with four runs in the top of the seventh. Anchorage’s Ryan Williams broke open a 2-all tie game with a bases-clearing double to the gap between center and left field off Peninsula closer Michael LeBeau.
Oilers head coach Jim Dietz did not mince words about the team’s late troubles, pointing out their plate discipline on two-strike pitches.
“Our defense was just horrendous, we lacked concentration at the plate,” Dietz said. “We struck out too many times with people in scoring position, and that goes a long way.
“The difference between our club and their club, is that they’re aggressive with people in scoring position.”
Becher took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before giving up a one-out single to Cody Sporrer. Becher finished with six frames of two-hit ball, striking out six and giving up one run (unearned) and three walks.
Becher was in line to earn the win after the Oilers reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI single from Caleb Hicks to put Peninsula back up 2-1, with scoring runner Mikey Hoehner slipping in the dirt past third base, along with third base coach Ryan Doran.
Becher said he was well aware of the no-hitter he was constructing, but added that he’s had similarly successful outings at the same ballpark as a member of the American Legion Twins and has kept it together.
“I’ve done it before in high school,” Becher said. “But it’s nothing like doing it in a summer (collegiate) league.”
The sweep left the Oilers (14-20) just a game ahead of the Chugiak Chinooks (14-22) for fourth place in the Alaska Baseball League standings, the difference between making the ABL postseason and ending the season early. The Chinooks lost 1-0 to the Anchorage Glacier Pilots on Friday, then lost to the Mat-Su Miners 6-5 on Saturday.
Kellen Strahm, Nathan Webb and Caleb Hicks all had two hits to lead the Oilers offense, which outhit the Bucs 7 to 5, including a solo home run by Webb.
The Bucs ended Becher’s no-no with one out in the top of the sixth, when Cody Sporrer blooped a single to right field. Sporrer advanced to second on a throwing error and stole third, allowing him to score the tying run on a two-out single by Mason Fishback.
Becher said as his fastball and curveball faded in the sixth, he began to feel the effects of a longer outing. His previous high inning mark this summer with the Oilers was five frames.
“Not since state last year have I pitched this much,” he said, referring to the Twins’ state championship run. “I was just trying to pitch down into the zone.”
The Oilers took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second when Webb cranked a moonshot homer behind the new scoreboard in left field.
The Oilers threatened to add some insurance in the bottom of the third when Isaac Deveaux bunted two runners into scoring position to take the first out, but Thomas Ruddy struck out and Hoehner flied out to end the frame.
A dropped pop fly by left fielder Raymond Kerr with two outs in the top of the fifth extended the inning and put runners on second and third, but Pete Derkay grounded out to end it there.
With LeBeau on the mound to close out the game, Landon Silver led off with a single, Jace VanDeBrake was hit by a pitch and Cole Kleszcz bunted successfully to juice the bases with no outs.
A grounder to first base by Derkay forced out Silver at home plate with the throw to LeBeau, and Domenic Collachio struck out for the second out by LeBeau.
However, Sporrer singled to right field to bring home the tying run, and Williams launched a three-run double to give the Bucs a lead, and LeBeau finished with the loss.
In Friday’s opening game, Andrew Kneussle picked up the complete-game victory, striking out four while giving up zero earned runs on five hits and two walks.
Aaron Shoup started for the Oilers, giving up seven runs on seven hits and four walks while striking out two in 3 2/3 innings. Tyler Waldrop pitched 3 1/3 in relief, giving up a run on three hits and three walks and a pair of strikeouts.
The Bucs scored five runs in the bottom of the third to open up a 7-0 lead. A single by A.J. Sawyer loaded the bases with no outs, and a Ryan Williams sac fly put the first run on the board. Sporrer followed that with a two-run double to forge a 3-0 lead.
A walk by Cole Kleszcz loaded the bases once again, and Todd Lott made the Oilers pay with a two-run single.
The Oilers eventually got on the board in the third with a two-run single by Ruddy that cut the lead to five runs.
Anchorage loaded the bases with two outs and Waldrop on the mound in the top of the sixth, but Gunnar Schubert flied out to center to end the threat.