The bats stayed silent until the end Wednesday night at Coral Seymour Memorial Park as the Peninsula Oilers fell 6-3 in their home opener to the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks in Alaska Baseball League action.
The loss dropped the Oilers to 2-4 overall this year, while the Chinooks broke a four-game losing skid to improve to 2-4.
After the Chinooks retired 10 of 11 Peninsula batters spanning the fifth through eighth innings, the Oilers finally awoke in the bottom of the ninth trailing 6-0. The first five batters reached — including hometown slugger Paul Steffensen on an infield single — as three runs came in, but Chugiak reliever Brian Cardone retired the final three to seal the win.
“We had opportunities to score, but didn’t cash in,” said Oilers head coach Kyle Brown. “It was frustrating for the players and I both.”
While the offense struggled most of the night, outfielder Camden Vasquez was able to do the most, hitting 2 for 3 with an RBI and two walks. Being from Arizona, Vasquez said the colder weather of Kenai, Alaska, favors pitching over hitting.
“For smaller guys like me, I’m not focused on hitting bombs,” Vasquez said. “I’m more looking for singles and doubles, just putting the ball in play.”
In his second season with the team, Brown remained optimistic even after the inauspicious start.
“I’m telling you, I’ve got a good club here,” he said. “I think we’re pressing a little bit, but once we get firing on all cylinders, I think we can go on a run here.”
The Oilers were able to notch 11 runs on the Chinooks in Monday’s ABL contest in Chugiak, but were shut out through eight innings Wednesday at home.
Trevor McGee started for the Chinooks but it was middle reliever Honus Kindreich that stymied the Oilers’ bats. McGee tossed four innings of four-hit ball with three walks, and Kindreich threw three hitless frames with three strikeouts and just one walk. Daniel Freeman and Cardone finished up with an inning apiece.
Soldotna grad Joey Becher got his second start of the year for the Oilers and gave up one run in four innings of work, scattering three hits with two walks as well. Becher made his first hometown start since 2017.
The Chinooks got on the board first in the second inning with an RBI single by Joe Brazil on a grounder, but it was the sixth where they did the most damage, scoring three runs to stake out a 4-0 lead.
After a leadoff double by Ethan English, Pate Fullerton laced an RBI double down the right-field line to push the lead to 2-0. Consecutive walks issued to Joe Brazil and Paddy McKermitt loaded the bases with one out, and after a strikeout to Trevor Cho, Peninsula’s Calvin Farris entered in relief and promptly gave up two runs on an infield single by Jess Davis, although the inning ended on a rundown between second and third that caught McKermitt out.
The Chinooks tacked on two more runs in the ninth with a towering RBI double to the fence by English and a sac fly by Brazil with the bases loaded.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Oilers loaded the bases with walks drawn by pinch-hitter Ethan Patrick and Jonathan Villa and singles by Victor Carlino and Steffensen. Steffensen beat out a soft grounder to score the first run, Skyler Messinger drew a walk to force in another run and Vasquez launched a sac fly to left field for a 6-3 game.
However, Jaden Fein and Bobby Goodloe were retired to end the game.
Becher was able to wiggle his way out of a jam in the top of the fourth. The Chinooks loaded the bases on a hit-by-pitch, walk and single, but Becher got through with consecutive fly-outs by Paddy McKermitt and Trevor Cho to keep runs off the board.
The Oilers had their best opportunity to score in the bottom of the fourth, loading the bases with two outs, but Jonathan Villa grounded out to end the threat.