Friday: Bucs take down Oilers

The last time Mike Grahovac rolled through town, he was coaching not only a different team, but a different kind of team.

As head coach of the Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks in 2014, Grahovac led an offensive powerhouse to regular season and Top of the World Series titles in the Alaska Baseball League.

Friday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park, Grahovac’s Anchorage Bucs put their nose out front in the race to win the American League by using pitching and defense to beat the Oilers 5-2 and win a crucial, six-game series 4-2.

The series win puts the Bucs at 17-14 in the ABL, three games ahead of the Oilers in the race to represent the AL in the postseason. Both squads have nine games left, and that’s if the game between the Oilers and Bucs that was rained out Saturday in Anchorage is made up.

“We then have to play better against the other teams than they do the rest of the year,” Oilers head coach Kevin Griffin said.

The Bucs averaged just three runs and six hits per game in the series, but that’s been the norm for a team relying on pitching and defense.

“Last year was a different league,” Grahovac said. “There were a lot more home runs. This year is a lot more defensive.”

To hammer that point home, here are some league stats for the 2014 Goldpanners and 2015 Bucs: 36 home runs vs. five home runs; .317 batting average vs. .232 batting average; and 7.3 runs per game vs. 3.9 runs per game.

With runs at a premium, defense becomes all the more important. The Bucs won the defensive battle against the Oilers in the series, as the Oilers allowed seven unearned runs while the Bucs yielded two unearned runs, although Oilers third baseman Alex Seifert did save more than a few runs during the series with sparkling plays at the hot corner.

“We got great pitching the entire trip and we got the clutch hits when we needed them,” Grahovac said.

Quin Grogan was 2-4 with a 3.50 ERA in league play heading into Friday’s game, but he went all nine innings against the Oilers, allowing seven hits and two runs — one earned — while walking one and striking out eight.

“He’s had some hard luck,” Grahovac said in explaining Grogan’s record. “We didn’t score runs or make plays behind him.”

Grogan ended up with 114 pitches, but Grahovac didn’t hesitate to leave him in the game.

“He’s the best-conditioned pitcher on our staff,” he said. “On our off days, he gets in his running, stretching and weight lifting.”

Oilers starter Joe Mata overcame early control problems to keep his team in the game. In the first inning, he walked two and hit one, but only gave up a run. That would be the lone run he allowed in five innings.

“Early on, he was a little wild, but he settled in,” Griffin said.

The Oilers tied up the game in the second inning when Seifert singled with two outs after a nine-pitch at-bat to score Brent Diaz.

Griffin said just one or two innings have been costing the Oilers all season, and Friday that inning was the sixth.

Shane Ennis came on in relief of Mata for the sixth. Stephan Trosclair led off with a single and Taylor Jones was hit by a pitch.

Zane Gurwitz then laid down a sacrifice bunt, but Ennis threw wildly to first to score Trosclair. Right fielder Jordan Washam then threw wildly home, allowing Jones to score and Gurwitz to take second. Gurwitz would score for a 4-1 lead on a single by David Banuelos.

The Oilers picked up an unearned run in the sixth when James Fowlkes scored on a Diaz grounder for a 4-2 game, but Grogan would close strong for the win.

Brodie Leftridge had two hits for the Bucs, while Mark Sanchez, Seifert and Kenai Central and American Legion Twins product Hector Rivera had two hits for the Oilers.

“Rivera got a chance to play the last couple of days and he’s done a good job,” Griffin said. “He’s a local guy and he works hard every day.”

Friday

Bucs 5, Oilers 2

Bucs AB R H BI Oilers AB R H BI

Mtya ss 5 0 0 0 Wsm rf 4 0 0 0

Plmr lf 3 1 0 0 Wlsn rf 0 0 0 0

Tscr dh 4 1 1 1 Flks cf 3 1 0 0

Jnes 1b 3 1 0 0 Arwd 1b 4 0 0 0

Gwtz 3b 3 1 0 1 BDz dh 4 1 1 1

Btlr rf 3 0 0 0 Bke dh 3 0 0 0

Ttm 2b 4 0 0 0 Sncz c 4 0 2 0

Bnls c 2 0 1 1 Sfrt 3b 4 0 2 1

Ltrg cf 3 0 2 0 Rvra lf 4 0 2 0

Jcbs cf 1 1 1 0 Glsy 2b 3 0 0 0

Totals 31 5 5 3 Totals 33 2 7 2

Anchorage 100 003 001 —5

Oilers 010 001 000 —2

2B — Sanchez. S — Gurwitz, Butler, Boeke. SB — Leftridge, Rivera. E — Grogan, Seifert, Ennis 2. LOB — Bucs 8, Oilers 6. DP — Bucs 1, Oilers 1.

IP H R ER BB SO

Bucs

Grogan, W 9 7 2 1 1 8

Oilers

Mata 5 2 1 1 3 4

Ennis 2-3 2 3 1 0 1

VanStone 1 1-3 0 0 0 0 0

Michel 1 0 0 0 0 1

Lujan 1 1 1 1 2 0

WP — Mata. HBP — by Mata (Trosclair); by Ennis (Jones).

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