Oilers open ABL playoffs against No. 1 Miners

Upon finishing the year under .500 and over 10 games behind the Alaska Baseball League leader, the Peninsula Oilers have reached one goal.

The next goal will take everything they have.

When the fourth-seeded Oilers open the postseason tonight at 6 p.m. at Hermon Brothers Field in Palmer, they will be facing the mighty Mat-Su Miners, the top-seeded club that finished 30-14 and ended the regular season on a nine-game win streak.

So how will the Oilers pull off the upset? For one, pitching can go a long way.

The Oilers hold the top pitcher in the league in Raymond Kerr, who is back to work after missing a turn in the team rotation for an illness. Kerr holds the best ERA in the league at 1.13. Second-best is Mat-Su’s Calvin LeBrun at 2.03.

In three starts and one relief appearance against the Miners this year, Kerr is 1-1 with a 1.42 ERA, and has only given up 13 base hits and three walks in 19 innings. The lefty-hander out of Lassen College (California) also boasts 16 strikeouts against the Miners.

Kerr isn’t a bum with a bat in his hand, either. Against all competition, the 22-year-old holds a .283 batting average this summer.

The Oilers are also coming off a playoff run that saw them take down some formidable competition, including the Miners. Peninsula is 4-7 against Mat-Su this year, which started with a 1-5 home stand against the Miners in early June.

However, the Oilers are 3-2 against the Miners at Hermon Brothers Field, where today’s contest will be played. The second game of the best-of-three series will be played Thursday at 2 p.m., with the “if-necessary” contest scheduled 40 minutes after the finish of game 2.

Peninsula recently split a crucial series with the Miners, including a doubleheader sweep on July 23 on the road.

While Kerr is Peninsula’s shining ace on the mound, the rest of the rotation can show up on any day and shut down a potent offense as well. Soldotna product Joey Becher sports a 2.25 ERA in 28 innings of work this summer, while California kid Kyle Lucke has spun a 2.84 ERA.

Behind that, Vermont pitcher Devin Hayes has recorded a 3.30 ERA in 30 innings on the mound for the Oilers and Arizona native Billy Clemens has started all year with a 5.76 ERA.

Another advantage the Oilers hold over the Miners heading into today’s opening playoff game is rest. The Oilers finished up their regular season Monday with a win over the Anchorage Glacier Pilots, while the Miners wrapped up their proceedings Tuesday with a doubleheader against the Pilots. That adds up to 14 additional frames of action that Mat-Su has seen in the last 24 hours.

It sets up the Peninsula offense to have a field day. Currently leading the Oilers from the plate this year is Kellen Strahm, a sophomore out of Eugene, Oregon. Strahm sports the second-best batting average in the league at .322 and is second in walks with 29, four behind the league leader.

Peninsula’s Thomas Ruddy sits 12th in batting average in the league at .280, and also offers speed on the base paths. The junior out of Yale University leads the ABL with 13 stolen bases.

However, the Miners have the top batter in Quin Cotton, who is hitting .338 this year, and own three of the top five batters, including Justin Ammons at .313 and Elijah MacNamee at .310.

Additionally, Mat-Su’s Blake Benefield leads the league in two offensive categories, home runs (six, tied with the Oilers’ Caleb Hicks) and RBI (30).

More in Sports

Me posing with a vintage guide to reporting on education. (Photo by Camille Botello)
Out of the Office: Next chapter

Like a lot of people who do what they love, I can… Continue reading

The Peninsula Oilers play the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks on Sunday, June 16, 2019, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Oilers launch fundraising drive due to financial troubles

The Peninsula Oilers are mounting a fundraising drive as financial troubles are… Continue reading

Thursday softball: Homer picks up 3 NLC wins on road

The visiting Kenai Central softball team was swept by Palmer in Northern… Continue reading

Thursday baseball: Kenai, Homer lose conference contests on road

The visiting Kenai Central baseball team lost 5-4 to Houston on Thursday… Continue reading

Soldotna's Alyssa McDonald throws out a runner against Kenai Central on Wednesday, May 15, 2024, at the Steve Shearer Memorial Ball Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Wednesday softball: Soldotna defeats Kenai; Palmer tops Homer

The visiting Soldotna softball team defeated Kenai Central 15-1 in four innings… Continue reading

Wednesday baseball: Soldotna topples Homer

The visiting Soldotna baseball team defeated Homer 19-6 on Wednesday in Northern… Continue reading

Homer's Immy Im hands off to Gracie Miotke, and Soldotna's Mia Hannevold hands off to Anaulie Sedivy, at the 400-meter relay Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the Kenai Peninsula Borough meet at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. Homer won the relay. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna girls, boys sweep borough track meet

The Soldotna girls and boys track and field teams swept the Kenai… Continue reading

Saturday soccer: Kenai girls, SoHi boys notch victories

The Soldotna boys soccer team defeated host Kenai Central 2-1 on Saturday… Continue reading

Saturday baseball: Kenai beats Grace; SoHi splits in league play

The Kenai Central baseball team toppled Grace Christian 13-2 in Northern Lights… Continue reading

Most Read