For all the trouble the Peninsula Oilers had bringing home base runners Friday night at Coral Seymour Memorial Park, even Dorothy of Kansas wouldn’t have been able to make it home with her ruby slippers.
For the ease that the Oilers found in scoring runs Saturday, Dorothy may as well have brought home the entire land of Oz with her.
The Oilers stranded 18 runners Friday night in the first game of a doubleheader, ultimately coming up short 6-5 to the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks. The Oilers then lost the nightcap 6-2 to fall into a tie with the Chinooks for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Alaska Baseball League.
The story was different Saturday as the Oilers blasted the Chinooks 14-5, knocking out 14 base hits along the way to split the four-game series with Chugiak.
Friday’s losses dropped the Oilers (18-24) into a tie with the Chinooks (17-25) in the ABL standings, but Saturday’s matinee victory provided a one-game cushion.
“We just had to flush out (Friday’s) games,” said Oilers catcher Jack Bauer, who went 2 for 2 with a double and two walks Saturday.
The Oilers staked out a 5-1 lead after five innings before the Chinooks came storming back in the top of the sixth with four runs to tie it up. Chugiak’s rally was capped by a two-run triple by Levi Gilcrease off Peninsula reliever Preston Plovanich.
The Oilers answered in the bottom of the frame, pulling in five runs that began with an RBI double by Thomas Ruddy. The boom continued with Ruddy scoring on an error, a two-run single by Isaac Deveaux and an RBI single by Mikey Hoehner, putting the Oilers up 10-5 once the batting calmed down.
Oilers head coach Jim Dietz said he had no explanation for the stark contrast between the two days, other than the Chinooks’ pitching caught up to them.
“That’s one of the things about baseball,” he said. “One day you’re a hero, the next you’ve got a knife in your back.
“I never know what I’m going to get with these guys.”
Dietz said with two days left in the season, a pair of 7 p.m. road games today and Monday against the Anchorage Glacier Pilots, the biggest concern for the Oilers is the pitching after the team used nine different arms over the course of the four-game series with the Chinooks.
“We really beat up our bullpen,” he said.
The Chinooks play today at the Anchorage Bucs, then host the Bucs on Monday to close out their regular season.
If the Oilers make the playoffs, it will be at the Mat-Su Miners starting Wednesday at 6 p.m., so their home slate is finished.
Kyle Lucke led the Oilers from the mound Saturday with nine strikeouts in five innings while giving up just one run. Lucke scattered four hits and walked three.
After Plovanich’s outing in the sixth inning, Caleb Hicks closed the game with three scoreless innings, giving up just two hits and two walks.
Kellen Strahm hit 3 for 5 with three runs and two RBIs.
The Oilers tacked on four more runs in the bottom of the eighth, capped by a two-run double by Paul Kunst that bounced off the center field wall, to push their lead to 14-5.
Friday’s first seven-inning game was pushed to nine frames to break a 4-all tie, and came down to the bat of Justin Gomez, who belted a two-run homer in the top of the ninth to put the Chinooks ahead. Gomez finished 3 for 4 with three RBIs.
Dietz said the Chinooks starting rotation gave the team fits all day long.
“They pitched us really good,” Dietz said. “Nobody did anything wrong, but nobody did anything right either.”
Mike Batten tossed a gem for the Chinooks, giving up one run and striking out four in 5 1-3 innings, giving up six hits and six walks. Scott Smith ended up with the win and the save, closing out the last two innings with a run, one hit and three walks with two strikeouts.
The Oilers drew a combined 14 walks and left the bases loaded on four separate occasions.
“That may be a record in this league,” Dietz said, acknowledging that the Oilers are particularly heavy-hitting at the top of their order. “We have three or four guys that are good at getting people through, but several guys that aren’t that good under pressure.”
SoHi product Joey Becher rebounded from a slow start to pitch five innings for the Oilers, giving up two runs on four hits and three walks, while striking out two. After giving up a run in each of the first two innings, Becher retired nine of the next 11 batters he faced. Becher has molded a 2.17 ERA this summer with the team.
Tyler Waldrop gave up three runs in three innings of relief, and Plovanich took the loss in the ninth inning when he was came on with no outs and promptly gave up Gomez’s homer.
The Chinooks have given the Oilers trouble this summer. After Friday’s sweep, Chugiak led the season series 7-3.
Daniel Sweeney earned the win for the Chinooks in the second game. Sweeney gave up two runs on three hits and three walks, while striking out two. Preston White finished the game with two scoreless innings, allowing three hits and a walk with two strikeouts.
Trent Paddon struck out four in four innings of work for the Oilers, giving up four runs on six hits and two walks. Michael LaBeau gave up two runs in three frames of relief, scattering four hits and striking out four.
In the first game, Gomez crushed a two-run shot over the right field wall in the top of the ninth to put the Chinooks ahead 6-4.
The Oilers attempted one last rally in the bottom of the frame when Thomas Ruddy pounded an RBI triple off the center field wall, but Hoehner struck out with the bases loaded to end the game.
The Chinooks originally seemed to ice the game in the top of the sixth on a two-run homer by Alex Schmitz that was ripped over the left field wall with two outs, putting the Fish up 4-1. The inning continued with two singles and a walk issued by Waldrop to load the bases, but Michie grounded to force the out at second.
Peninsula put together a three-run rally in the bottom of the sixth to tie it at four apiece. The Oilers took advantage of some sloppy pitching by Chinooks reliever J.J. Julian, who allowed three straight runs on wild pitches. Paul Kunst, Nathan Webb and Ruddy all raced home to tie it up, but after Isaac Deveaux took a walk, Caleb Hicks grounded out to end the rally.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Oilers had a chance to walk it off when Kellen Strahm drew a two-out walk, stole second and swiped third on a walk to Kunst. Julian then walked Webb to load the bases, but Ruddy grounded out to first to send the game to extras.
Gomez’s RBI double in the top of the first put Chugiak ahead from the get-go.
With two outs in the top of the second, Jeremy Johnson drew a walk to load the bases, and Becher hit Levi Gilcrease with a pitch to force in a run, putting Chugiak up 2-0.
In the third inning, three consecutive walks issued by Batten loaded the bases, but Hicks struck out to end the threat.
Hicks scored the first Peninsula run in the fifth with an RBI single up the left field line, which came after Wanger knocked out a one-out double.
In the second game, the Chinooks went up 4-0 with a three-run third inning. Aaron Shackleford put the Chinooks up 2-0 with a two-out RBI single and Preston White grounded a laser shot down the third-base line that brought in two runs and boosted the lead to four runs.
Webb cut Chugiak’s lead in half with a two-run double with two outs in the bottom of the fifth.
LaBeau walked the bases loaded in the top of the sixth, setting up Gomez to hit a two-run single to center field, extending the lead to 6-2.