The fourth-seeded Peninsula Oilers gave the top seed and defending champion Anchorage Glacier Pilots all they could handle in a 4-3 loss Sunday in the Alaska Baseball League playoffs at Mulcahy Stadium in Anchorage.
The Oilers rallied for two runs against Pilots closer Jacob King in the top of the ninth but could not find the tying run in losing the single-game series and seeing their season end.
Anchorage advanced to the Top of the World Series on Monday against the No. 2 Mat-Su Miners. That game was still in progress as the Clarion went to press due to a rain delay and a delay due to the turf on the mound tearing apart.
The Miners defeated the No. 3 Anchorage Bucs 2-1 in the other semifinal Sunday.
After a pitcher’s duel between starters Nico Zeglin of the Pilots and Hayden Johns of the Oilers left the game at 2-1 entering the bottom of the eighth inning, the runs started flowing against relievers Carson Seeman of the Oilers and Jacob King of the Pilots. Both Seeman and King are first-team all-ABL pitchers. Shunsuke Sakaino, at second base, and James Shimashita, at utility player, joined Sakaino on the first team.
In the bottom of the eighth, Ali Camarillo singled to lead off the inning against Seeman, then Caden Kendle hit a no-doubt home run to left to make it 4-1 and give the Pilots a massive dose of confidence with King warming up in the bullpen.
With the top of their lineup due up against King, the Oilers had other plans.
Shimashita led off with a single, then Chase Katafias finished a 2 for 4 game by also singling. Sakaino, who won the ABL batting title with a .336 average, also singled to load the bases with no outs.
Dalton Bowling then worked the count full before walking to force in a run. Casey Burnham made it 4-3 when his grounder forced out Sakaino at third for the first out. Noah Hennings, who was 2 for 4, then reloaded the bases with one out on an infield single.
King then came through with a huge strikeout of Trey Becker. Graiden West popped out to first to end the game.
The Oilers had closed their regular season with a 6-2 victory at the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks on Saturday. The Chinooks were not in the playoffs, so the Oilers were the only playoff team that did not get a day off before the playoffs.
Peninsula was still able to mount a strong effort behind Johns on the mound. Johns took the hard-luck loss by going six innings and giving up two runs on six hits while striking out two and walking none.
Both runs came home by slim margins.
In the fourth, Camarillo led off with a single and stole second. The Bucs were 4 for 5 on stolen bases in the game.
Camarillo went to third on a grounder and scored on a single by Cole Fontenelle that Sakaino just missed tracking down at second.
In the fifth, Alex Seguine led off with a single and stole second. He moved to third on a fly out to center by Troy Harding, then scored when Bowling couldn’t make a tough play at first on a grounder by Bryan Webb.
Meanwhile, Zeglin was cruising, but the Oilers were able to cut the gap to 2-1 in the sixth when Jerry Nix singled with two outs, then scored on a single by Katafias. Zeglin, the winning pitcher, went seven innings and gave up a run on four hits while walking one and striking out four.
Keaton Fuller had a perfect eighth for Anchorage. Seeman worked two innings and gave up two runs on two hits, while King gave up two runs on four hits in getting the save.
The Oilers, who last won the league in 2011, were appearing in the playoffs for the first time since 2019. Peninsula finished fourth in the ABL regular season at 16-23, while the Pilots were first at 27-9, the Miners were second at 27-12, the Bucs were third at 18-18 and the Chinooks were fifth at 6-32.