Jacob Shaver of the Oilers rounds third base after hitting a two-run home run in the sixth inning against the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks on Sunday, July 10, 2022, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Jacob Shaver of the Oilers rounds third base after hitting a two-run home run in the sixth inning against the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks on Sunday, July 10, 2022, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Oilers push winning streak to 4

It’s not just that the Peninsula Oilers are winning, it’s how they are winning.

The Oilers defeated the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks 4-3 on Saturday, 11-0 in seven innings Sunday and 6-2 on Monday in Alaska Baseball League play at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai.

Peninsula has now won four straight and four of five in a pivotal five-game series against the Chinooks. The Oilers start a seven-game road trip, to take place in seven days, starting Wednesday with a 7 p.m. game against the Anchorage Bucs at Mulcahy Stadium in Anchorage.

The Oilers improve to 10-16 in the league, while the Chinooks fall to 5-22. Peninsula is now 5.5 games ahead of Chugiak-Eagle River for the final playoff spot in the ABL.

The Anchorage Glacier Pilots lead the league at 18-6, while the Mat-Su Miners are a game back at 20-10. The Bucs sit 5.5 games back at 14-13, with the Oilers 9.5 games out of first.

Peninsula got into that hole in the standings by losing a lot of one-run games.

“As a team, we’re just gaining momentum by each win we have,” said Jacob Shaver, who continued a big series Sunday with a two-run home run. “We lost a lot of one-run games earlier in the season — a lot of games we shouldn’t have lost.

“We’re better than that. We’re better than our record shows.”

Oilers head coach Larry McCann said continually those losses came down to not executing on offense — not getting quality at-bats with runners in scoring position, not executing hit and runs, not executing steals and not executing sacrifice bunts.

“We’ve definitely got to play the game the right way and we’ve got to prioritize the small things because the ball is not flying and there’s a lot of fly-outs,” Shaver said. “Keeping the ball hard and low, being able to play catch on defense, field bunts, execute hit and runs, execute stolen bags, all that’s really important up here.”

Saturday, the score was 3-3 when the Chinooks left the bases loaded in the seventh and eighth innings.

In the eighth, the Oilers rallied when Casey Burnham was hit by a pitch with one out, then stole second. Jerry Nix then came through with a clutch, two-out single for the winning run.

“We’ve had a lot better at-bats with runners in scoring position and two-out RBIs,” McCann said.

Mose Hayes, a product of Homer High School, worked out of the bases-loaded jam in the eighth to get the win, while Drake Frize pitched a perfect ninth to record the save.

James Shimashita, Shunsuke Sakaino and Nix each had two hits for the Oilers.

James Arend took the loss in relief for the Chinooks, while Ben Weaver had two of the team’s five hits.

Sunday, the little things kept paying big dividends for the Oilers.

One of the big plays in a five-run outburst in the first inning came with one away, when Noah Hennings was able to get the ball on the ground in a hit and run. Chinooks shortstop Alec Beeman made a wild throw to first on the play, putting runners on second and third with one out and setting the stage for all of the innings’ runs to be unearned.

McCann has emphasized hitting line drives and grounders.

“There’s no bad hops in the air. None. I’ve yet to see a bad hop in the air in my 40-plus years doing this,” McCann said. “If you hit the ball on the ground, there’s an opportunity for a bad hop, he’s got to catch the ball, he’s got to throw the ball and he’s got to catch the ball.”

In the third, the Oilers went up 6-0 when Ethan Firestone walked and was bunted to second by Burnham. Jake Brown then singled to score Firestone.

The Oilers executed another hit and run in the sixth and successfully stole two bases. On the flip side, the team was caught stealing twice and ran into the final out of the inning on the basepaths in the sixth.

McCann said the team will keep trying to steal in the right situations.

“The stopwatch is the stopwatch,” McCann said. “So if the pitcher is more than 1.2 or 1.3 (seconds) to the plate, and the catcher is 2.2 to second base, the stopwatch will tell you we should be able to steal on that guy.”

In the sixth, the Oilers got five runs to accumulate enough for the mercy rule. The big blow was Shaver’s two-run home run with two outs off the left field foul pole. Before the pitch, Shaver said he moved up in the box just a little to adjust for the velocity. He said without that adjustment the blast probably goes foul.

He said it was his first home run off a foul pole.

“It made a pretty cool sound,” Shaver said.

Carson Seeman went all seven innings for the Oilers, improving to 4-1. He gave up just three hits and got 12 of 21 outs on fly balls.

“The ball doesn’t fly, not today, so I just wanted to fill up the zone and use my D,” Seeman said. “The outfielders had a lot of work today. They hit some balls hard, so props to them, but up here the ball in the air doesn’t go anywhere.”

Tim Watkins took the loss for the Chinooks. Brown was 3 for 3 with two runs and two RBIs for the Oilers, while Sakaino was 2 for 4 with two runs, Dalton Bowling had three RBIs and Graiden West was 2 for 3.

“We’ve gained a little confidence,” Seeman said. “In the last couple of weeks, we were struggling to get that one run and the breakthrough hits, but these last couple games should give us a lot of confidence to do that in the future.”

Monday, the Chinooks were thin on fresh pitching and the Oilers took advantage.

Hayden Johns had not gotten run support this season, but he improved to 1-3 with a 2.42 ERA by going seven innings and giving up a run on five hits. Max Miller gave up a run on a hit in one inning for the Oilers, while Drake Frize pitched a scoreless ninth.

Harrison Clifton, pitching on three days rest, gave up five runs — four earned — in 4 2-3 innings to take the loss.

Burnham led the Oilers at the plate by going 2 for 4. Justin Grech was 2 for 4 for the Chinooks.

OIlers second baseman Graiden West gets ready to tag out Justin Grech of the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks on a steal attempt Sunday, July 10, 2022, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

OIlers second baseman Graiden West gets ready to tag out Justin Grech of the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks on a steal attempt Sunday, July 10, 2022, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

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