Down to their last strike, the Chugiak/Eagle River Chinooks still had some last-second magic left in them.
Facing a full count and with two outs in the top of the ninth inning, Chinooks batter Anthony Forte tied the game with an RBI single, and Gregory Ozuna put the Chinooks up for good in the top of the 13th to send the visitors to a 3-2 win over the Peninsula Oilers Friday night at Coral Seymour Memorial Park.
And one day after the summer solstice, the teams had no problem getting in the 13-inning affair before darkness crept in.
The loss snapped a three-game win streak but the Oilers still lead the Alaska Baseball League at 11-5, with the Mat-Su Miners 2 1/2 games behind. The Chinooks improved to 6-9 overall.
Both teams return 7 p.m. Saturday for the fourth of a five-game series in Kenai.
The Oilers had trouble getting their bats going in the late innings, and in the extra frames failed to put a baserunner on. The Oilers ultimately finished with three hits total to the Chinooks’ nine.
“Our offense has been on a downslide,” said head coach Kyle Brown. “It was pretty pathetic actually.”
The 2018 edition of the Oilers have relied on steady pitching that has been lights out at times, but it only got them so far Friday.
Andrew Lopez tossed three perfect innings of relief prior to the doomed 13th inning for the Oilers. Lopez whiffed four batters while retiring the side in all three frames, but was pulled after 36 pitches in favor of Austin Merrill.
Merrill gave up a leadoff single in the top of the 13th to Bailey Collins, who moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jordan Wharton and got to third on a passed ball by Oilers catcher Ryan Koch.
Collins then scored the go-ahead run on Ozuna’s single that was lined to the center-left field gap.
In the bottom of the 13th, Paul Kunst, John Mackay and Grant Wood all grounded and popped out to end the night.
“At the end of the day, it’s baseball,” Brown said. “(Chugiak) were never going to give up, and hats off to them.
“We had the pressure on us, and we were swinging at pitches we shouldn’t have, started chasing balls out of the zone.”
Oilers right-hander Ryan Silva, a Cal Baptist freshman, got the start on the mound and gave up one run in five innings of solid pitching, striking out four while giving up four hits and a walk.
“I was locating all four of my pitches well,” Silva said about his combination of his fastball, changeup, slider and curve. “I came in to dial up my fastball, and worked from there.”
Noah Owen and Justin Jaime combined to toss three innings of scoreless relief before Bret Ricklefs came on in the ninth to close out the game.
Ricklefs started off his appearance by hitting Chinooks batter Luke VanDover, then walked J Paul Fullerton while retiring Ozuna and pinch hitter Seth Ballenger before getting to Forte. Ricklefs had him at a 3-2 count when Forte laced a hit into left field to tie it up.
University of Wisconsin senior Jared Reklaitis started for Chugiak and struck out seven in seven frames of three-hit ball. After Reklaitis’ exit, the Oilers failed to put a man on base in the final six innings.
“Their pitching staff was just painting fastballs,” Brown said.
Two runs in the fourth inning put the Oilers up 2-1. Koch drew a leadoff walk and moved to third on a single lined to right field by Calvin Farris, then scored on a groundout by Michael Yourg to tie the game.
A grounder to third by Kunst brought Farris in to score when the throw to first baseman Nick Kreutzer couldn’t hang on to the ball, giving the Oilers a lead they wouldn’t give up until the ninth.
Earlier, the Chinooks got things going in the third with a leadoff walk by Thomas Harper, who later took third on a balk by Silva. The balk came back to bite Silva when Kreutzer knocked him in on a bloop single to left field for a 1-0 Chugiak lead.
The Oilers kept Chugiak from scoring on a golden outfield play in the sixth when a single off the bat of Kreutzer dropped in front of Calvin Farris, but Farris’ throw from left field was spot on to Koch at home plate to tag Collins and end the inning.