Friday, it was the Mat-Su Miners’ bats that did the damage. Saturday, it was the Oilers doing damage to themselves.
The Miners defeated the Oilers 5-1 on Friday and 5-4 on Saturday in Alaska Baseball League play at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai. The story of Friday’s game was six extra-base hits by the Miners. The story of Saturday’s game was two Miners scoring on wild pitches, two Miners getting hit by pitches and ending up scoring, and the Miners’ last two runs being unearned.
The Miners move to 19-10 and now lead the Alaska Baseball League by four games over the 15-14 Oilers. The Anchorage Bucs are in third at 13-15, just 1.5 games in back of the Oilers. Mat-Su has won three of the first four games in this five-game series against the Oilers. The series concludes today at 2 p.m.
Mat-Su leads the league with 137 runs while the Bucs are second at 117. That potent Miners offense struck out only four times while collecting 10 hits Friday. The Oilers had five hits.
“They’re a very good team. That’s a Cape Cod lineup,” Oilers head coach Kyle Brown said, referring to the Cape Cod League, a summer collegiate league funded in part by Major League Baseball. “There are not weaknesses in that lineup.
“That doesn’t mean we can’t beat them.”
The Oilers are 3-5 against the Miners this season. Brown said the common thread in the Oilers victories has been getting off to a good start.
“We want to jump on them early and take them out of their element,” Brown said.
That’s no surprise to Miners head coach Ben Taylor.
“They’re a really good team,” Taylor said. “Our starting pitching has to be on point against them.”
Starter Ian Churchill was on point for the Miners on Friday, going seven innings and giving up a run on four hits while whiffing five and walking none.
“He’s a left-hander in the upper 80s,” Brown said. “He commanded the strike zone, painted the outside half of the plate. He kept hitters off-balance by flipping in a curveball once in a while.”
With Churchill in control, the Miners offense was able to chop away and do its thing, driving the caps and corners, against Oilers starter and loser Ryan Silva, who went 4 1-3 innings, giving up four runs on seven hits.
In the second, Danny Wright tripled and scored on a double by Aaron Walters. In the third, Caleb Van Blake doubled and scored on a single by Austin Pinorini.
In the fifth, Drew Swift singled and Kona Quiggle doubled. Swift would score on a wild pitch while Quiggle made it 4-1 by scoring on a ground-out. In the sixth, Walters led off with another double and Swift drove Walters home with another single.
“Some guys got into hitter’s counts and took advantage,” Taylor said.
The Oilers lone run came in the fourth, when Chad Bible led off with a double for the club’s lone extra-base hit of the night, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a Grant Wood grounder.
The Oilers trailed 5-1 in the eighth when two reached against Mat-Su reliever Nathan Bock. But No. 3 hitter Ryan Koch struck out and Bible grounded out.
“That was our opportunity,” Brown said. “The heart of their order did damage when they had the chance, and ours didn’t.”
Walters finished 3 for 4 for the Miners, while Swift was 2 for 4. Bible was 2 for 4 for the Oilers.
Saturday, the Oilers gave the Miners’ offense way too much help. The biggest example was in the top of the ninth, when the Oilers had battled back from a 4-2 deficit to level the game at 4.
With two away, Danny Wright reach on an error by second baseman Grant Wood. Caleb Van Blake then walked and then Spencer Henson singled in Wright with the winning run.
That rally made a winner out of Miners closer Bryce Tassin, who worked two innings and gave up a hit and no runs. The loss went to Oilers closer Bret Ricklefs for giving up the unearned run.
Tevin Murray got the start for the Oilers, going five innings and giving up four runs — three earned — while striking out 10 and walking one. Andrew Lopez and Tre Brown combined to work three innings of scoreless relief for the Oilers.