The Peninsula Oilers clinched a spot in the Alaska Baseball League playoffs by splitting a doubleheader with the Anchorage Bucs on Friday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai.
The Oilers topped the Bucs 3-2 in the first game before dropping the second game 2-1 to earn a playoff spot for the first time since 2019. Peninsula started the season 6-16, but has won 8 of 11 since.
Peninsula, now 14-19, clinched the final berth over the idle Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks, who are 6-26. The Bucs, now 16-15, are three games ahead of the Oilers for third place. The Anchorage Glacier Pilots, at 21-9, and the Mat-Su Miners, at 23-11, are tied for first in the league.
Time is quickly running out for Oilers fans to catch a game. Peninsula hosts the Bucs today at 6 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. and Monday at 6 p.m. in what is likely the last home game of the season.
In order to get another home game, the Oilers would have to catch the Bucs for the No. 3 seed, then have both the Miners and Pilots lose in the first round of the playoffs.
In the first game, James Shimashita preserved the 3-2 lead by throwing out Chad Born at the plate in the top of the sixth inning.
Hayden Johns got the victory for the Oilers, going six innings and giving up two runs on five hits while walking two and striking out one. Drake Frize got the save by pitching a perfect seventh inning, striking out two.
The Bucs took the lead in the first inning when Michael Diaz doubled to score Alex Champagne.
The Oilers struck back with two runs in the bottom of the fourth. Ethan Firestone singled to score Shunsuke Sakaino and Casey Burnham, then went up 3-1 in the fifth when a Burnham sacrifice fly scored Trey Becker.
The Bucs got within one in the sixth when Garrett Anglim singled to score Cody Grebeck, but Shimashita nipped the tying rally with his throw.
Owen Wild took the loss for Anchorage, going four innings and giving up two runs on six hits while walking two and striking out five.
Becker and Sakaino each had two hits for the Oilers, who had nine hits to the Bucs’ five. Anglim and Diaz had two hits for the Bucs.
In the second game, the Oilers went to the bottom of the seventh trailing 2-0 before trying to rally.
Jake Brown reached on an error, then Shimashita singled to put Brown on third. After Graiden West struck out for the first out of the inning, Sakaino drove a double to right field, scoring Brown.
Casey Burnham, pinch running for Shimashita, was held up at third base, but he slipped trying to get back to third for the second out of the inning. Noah Hennings was retired for the final out of the game.
Anchorage got both of its runs off Oilers starter and loser Knolton Clark in the first inning. Clark lasted two innings. Homer product Mose Hayes had three innings of scoreless relief, while Will O’Neil had two scoreless innings of relief.
Bucs starter and winner Josh Hansell was able to work around five hits in four innings to keep the Oilers off the board. Blake Hammond got the save by working the final two innings.
Hennings and Jacob Shaver each had two of the Oilers eight hits.