What started as a tense, do-or-die game for the Peninsula Oilers ended up as a fun game with infielders pitching and pitchers playing in the outfield.
That’s because the Oilers are going to the playoffs.
Peninsula clinched the fourth and final spot in the Alaska Baseball League playoffs in the top of the fourth inning of Monday’s game against the Anchorage Glacier Pilots at Mulcahy Stadium. In the top of the fourth, the Anchorage Bucs finished off a 4-0 victory against the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks, eliminating the Chinooks from postseason contention.
The Oilers then went on to a 5-1 victory over the Pilots. The Oilers finish in fourth in the league with a 19-25 record, while the Chinooks are in fifth at 17-27.
The Pilots, who still must play a doubleheader against the Mat-Su Miners today, are in third at 20-22, while the Bucs are in second at 24-20 and Mat-Su sits in first at 28-14.
The Oilers will face the Miners in the semifinals of the playoffs in a best-of-three set that starts Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Hermon Brothers Field in Palmer. Game 2 of the series will be Thursday at Hermon Brothers at 2 p.m., while the third game, if necessary, is 40 minutes after the conclusion of the first game.
After failing to score Sunday night against the Pilots, the Oilers served notice early that Monday would be different.
Kellen Strahm opened up the game with a single, then, after two were away, Benjamin Wanger belted a triple to score Strahm. Caleb Hicks then singled up the middle to give the Oilers a 2-0 lead before the Pilots even got to the plate.
Anchorage cut the gap to 2-1 in the bottom of the third inning, but shortly after a lot of the drama was sucked out of the evening when it was learned the Chinooks had lost and the Pilots game would have no bearing on the postseason.
Oilers starter Raymond Kerr was then taken out after just three innings to preserve his arm for the postseason. Kerr gave up a run and a hit while walking two and striking out two.
Even with the playoffs in the bag, the Oilers continued to wash the taste of Sunday’s shutout out of their mouths.
In the top of the fourth, Hicks was hit by a pitch and Jack Bauer walked with one away. Thomas Ruddy then singled to score Hicks and Bauer scored on an error.
In the top of the fifth, the Oilers went up 5-1. Paul Kunst led off the inning with a walk and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Hicks.
The fifth closed the books on Pilots starter and loser Cody Curfman, who gave up five earned runs on five hits while walking two and striking out three.
From that point on, both teams steadily emptied their benches and rested starters in order to get ready for the postseason.