One game is a small sample size, but the Peninsula Oilers have already shown they are determined to succeed through determination.
The Oilers collected a 5-1 win over the Anchorage Bucs in their season-opening Alaska Baseball League contest Thursday night at Coral Seymour Memorial Park. The Oilers and Bucs return for a 7 p.m. game tonight, the second of a six-game series.
After Bucs starter Adam Seminaris retired the side in each of the first three innings, the Oilers bats woke up the second time through the order by plating three runs in the bottom of the fourth, and they never looked back.
“We swung and put bats on the balls and the second time through the order, my hitters were talking in the dugout,” said first-year Oilers head coach Kyle Brown. “We scored the first run without a hit, so from an execution standpoint, we were manufacturing runs.”
Cal State San Marcos junior right-hander Mike Lopez spun five scoreless innings on the mound, giving up four hits and three walks while whiffing two. Lopez was pulled after 89 pitches and Cal Baptish freshman Ryan Silva entered to give up an unearned run in three relief innings. Bret Ricklefs closed out the victory with a trouble-free frame.
“We got a quality start from our pitcher, and that set the tone early,” Brown said. “That’s what we ask for.”
Cal State Bakersfield freshman Evan Berkey came through with two big hits, starting with an RBI triple in the fourth and a run-scoring single in the sixth. Berkey finished 2 for 4 while shortstop Paul Kunst scored both times he reached base.
“I like this team,” Berkey said. “Usually it takes a couple weeks to really jell with a team, and I feel it’s only taken a few days here.”
Berkey, the Oilers third baseman, said the team was able to learn Anchorage’s pitches quickly after just one trip through the batting lineup, which helped deliver runs when it counted most. The Oilers were able to score before collecting their first hit as a team.
“(Seminaris) is the first pitcher we’ve seen all summer, and once we saw him the second time, we got the hang of it,” Berkey said. “His offspeed stuff was there, but his first-pitch fastball was what I was looking for.”
The Oilers also got help from a mistake-prone Bucs infield that committed four errors, including two from third baseman Dane Stankiewicz, who allowed the first run to score on a bad throw to first and let slip another run in the sixth when a routine grounder went between his legs. Stankiewicz also was caught stealing second in the sixth, a play that ended the frame.
“We capitalized on them,” Brown said. “You give me an inch, I’ll take a mile.”
After retiring the order in each of the first three innings, Seminaris finally ran into trouble in the fourth. Tyler Duke drew a leadoff walk and scored on a grounder by Kunst that was underthrown to first by Bucs third baseman Stankiewicz, putting the Oilers up first.
Kunst then scored on a single by Ryan Koch and a deep Berkey triple to centerfield put the Oilers up 3-0.
The Bucs answered in the top of the fifth by putting runners on the corners, but a Tanner Tredaway groundout ended the threat.
In a nifty defensive play, Oilers catcher Ryan Koch caught Stankiewicz trying to steal on a throw down to second to end the top half of the sixth.
It was the Oilers’ turn to put runners on first and third in the bottom of the sixth, and Berkey came up with another RBI by lifting a single into right field to put Peninsula up 4-0.
Another error by Stankiewicz at third — this one a grounder through his legs — allowed Wood to score and Berkey to take third safely on an acrobatic leap.
Anchorage finally broke through in the top of the eighth when J.C. Correa reached third on a line drive double to the right field corner that Kirk struggled to field. Brennan Breaux followed that with an RBI single to centerfield that scored Correa.