The underdog Peninsula Oilers learned another painful lesson as to why the Anchorage Bucs are the top team in the Alaska Baseball League in 2019, losing a wild roller-coaster playoff opener Thursday night at Mulcahy Stadium in Anchorage.
The Oilers blew a six-run lead, allowing seven unanswered runs late to fall 7-6 and give the Bucs a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three semifinal series. Game 2 begins tonight at 7 p.m. at Mulcahy as an elimination game for the Oilers.
If the Oilers win Friday, Saturday will become a winner-take-all Game 3, with the winner moving on to the Top of the World Series. In the other semifinal series, the Anchorage Glacier Pilots took a 1-0 lead over the Mat-Su Miners with a 5-1 win.
Oilers head coach Kyle Brown stayed optimistic in pointing out that the season isn’t over yet.
“The message to the guys was, ‘Well, that sucked,’” Brown said in a postgame interview on 1140 AM. “But the beautiful thing is we get to do it again tomorrow.”
After going up 6-0, all runs coming in the sixth inning, the fourth-seeded Oilers looked to be on their way to pulling an upset on the top-seeded Bucs, particularly after the way Peninsula starter Jake Adams mowed down batters in the first five innings.
However, the Bucs steadily picked at the lead, scoring three runs in the bottom of the sixth and four more in the seventh.
Anchorage’s Chad Castillo capped the comeback with a two-run double to take the lead at 7-6.
Adams struck out nine over the first five scoreless innings for the Oilers, but struggled to start the sixth and ended up allowing three runs on five hits.
“I thought our pitching was good, Jake Adams threw the ball very well through five, and I thought he got a little tired in the sixth,” Brown said. “The walks came later in the game, but the most important thing is when you give this team the opportunity to score, they produce. They don’t miss those crucial pitches.”
Adams loaded the bases on three straight walks before being pulled with no outs on the board. Reliever Giancarlo Servin allowed a sac fly by Taishi Nakawake and a bases-loaded walk by Blake Paugh to cut the lead further to 6-3, but got out of the inning with the lead.
Calvin Farris entered on the mound in the bottom of the seventh, allowing two base runners for Justin Cook to score one on an RBI single, cutting the gap to 6-5.
Cook was then picked off first by Farris for a crucial second out, but Castillo had the last laugh for the Bucs with a two-run double to complete the comeback.
Holding a one-run lead, the Bucs brought in their most feared closer, Winthrop University right-hander Colton Rendon, who retired Fein, Vasquez and Paul Steffensen in order to seal the win.
Earlier, the Oilers loaded the bases in the top of the third with one out against Bucs starter Evan Taylor but couldn’t bring in runs after a strikeout from Skyler Messinger and a ground-out by Jaiden Fein.
In the top of the sixth, the Oilers finally broke through. Adam Dapkewicz stopped the scoreless tie with a two-out single, then Travis Bohall drew a bases-loaded walk to force in another run.
Bobby Goodloe provided the biggest hit with a bases-clearing single to smash it open at 5-0 on a grounder that bounced off first base, allowing Goodloe to reach second.
Connor McCord then ripped an RBI single to an outfield gap to push it to 6-0.
The Bucs then marched back with seven unanswered runs, starting immediately in the bottom of the sixth on a Ryan Sullivan home run.
Goodloe finished 2 for 3 and McCord went 2 for 4 to lead the Oilers from the plate, while Bohall, Vasquez and Dapkewicz each notched a hit.
Sullivan ended up 3 for 5 to lead the Bucs.