Heading into the weekend, the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks had a tough task ahead of them.
The Chinooks had lost four straight and were nearing the end of playing 12 games in 10 days. They were on the road for three more games against the first-place Peninsula Oilers, who had already beaten them by a combined score of 14-2 on Wednesday and Thursday.
But Chugiak-Eagle River won Friday and Saturday, then won 5-2 on Sunday in Alaska Baseball League play at Coral Seymour Memorial Park to end up taking the five-game series.
“I’m proud of the guys,” Chugiak-Eagle River head coach Jon Groth said. “The Oilers are a first-place team, a good team.
“They found a way to get two close, low-scoring games, then they found a way to win today.”
Even after three straight losses, the Oilers are still a first-place team at 11-7, one game ahead of the Mat-Su Miners at 9-7. The Chinooks are up to third place in the league at 8-9, 2.5 games behind the Oilers.
Visiting teams stay at the infamous Bingo Hilton. With their first day off since June 14 coming up Tuesday, the Chinooks somehow found a way to revive themselves in the notoriously tough quarters.
“This is a great group of guys,” said Groth, who has been with the Chinooks seven seasons. “They get along well.
“They enjoyed the bingo hall as much as any group I’ve had here.”
The Bingo Hilton is about as good for rest as windy, cool and spacious Seymour Park is for power numbers. But somehow the Chinooks made home runs the difference in Sunday’s game, hitting two that would account for three runs and the winning margin.
Christian Winston had a solid start for the Oilers, going five innings and allowing a run on seven hits. He was matched by Larson Kindreich of the Chinooks, who went the first 5 2-3 innings, allowing a run on a hit.
That run came when Ryan Novis doubled to score Evan Berkey to tie the game at 1 in the fifth.
The Chinooks took the lead for good with two runs in the sixth off of Erickson Fish. With one away, pinch hitter Nick Kreutzer started the rally with a double.
“Sitting and not starting, then getting up to hit, is not an easy thing to do,” Groth said. “He’s done it well. He’s mature enough to do it.”
With two away, Anthony Forte, the No. 9 hitter, then blasted a home run over the right-field wall. It was only the second home run of the season for the Chinooks.
“He’s had some big hits for us, so I’m not surprised he got the big hit,” Groth said. “I am a little surprised it was a home run.”
The Oilers cut it to 3-2 in the seventh when Ryan Cook doubled to score Novis, but the Chinooks and Kreutzer came back for more in the eighth against Fish. J Paul Fullerton, who finished 2 for 4, doubled with one away, then Kreutzer doubled again for a 4-2 game.
The owners of the big hits — Kreutzer, Forte and Fullerton — all batted left-handed against the righty Fish, but Oilers head coach Kyle Brown said that was not the deciding factor in the matchups.
“He didn’t locate,” Brown said of Fish. “That’s what it comes down to. They’re a good team. Throw it down the middle and they’ll make you pay.”
Bailey Collins of the Chinooks made reliever Justin Jaime pay in the ninth when he launched another home run to right field to cap a 3 for 5 day.
Novis and Ryan Koch each went 2 for 4 as the struggling Oilers offense showed signs of life by scratching out nine hits. Brown said the Oilers just left too many on base.
“I’m not worried at all,” Brown said. “I know we’re going to slide. We’ve won three games in a row multiple times this year.
“We have to stay on an even keel whether we’re winning or losing.”
The Oilers now embark on a seven-game road trip starting Tuesday against the Mat-Su Miners at 7 p.m.