The Peninsula Oilers are in the business of winning titles and sending players off to bigger and better things.
They almost accomplished both in 2016.
While the Oilers came up short of a Top of the World Series championship this summer, losing two games in a playoff series to the Mat-Su Miners, the team has succeeded in getting a player signed to the pros.
Righ-handed pitcher Hasten Freeman has signed on to the Sioux City (Iowa) Explorers, a team that is currently battling for a division title in the American Association. Sioux City is currently one game back of the Lincoln (Nebraska) Saltdogs in the AA Central Division standings.
Oilers head coach Brian Daly said he was proud to have gotten Freeman signed onto a bigger team. As a senior out of the University of Arkansas Fort Smith, Freeman finished the 2016 Alaska Baseball League season with a 4.69 ERA, accumulated over 23 innings of work. Freeman touted a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 18-14.
“It’s a big step for him, and I’m glad I was able to use my connections to give him a chance,” Daly said.
Last year, Daly got two players signed — right handers David Diaz and Paul Lujan — onto professional teams.
Daly added that the 6-foot-2 righty from Subiaco, Arkansas, hasn’t just developed one strong pitch, but rather offers up a nice collection of throws that will keep batters off balance.
Daly used to coach in the American Association with the now-defunct El Paso (Texas) Diablos, and said with the plethora of contacts he has with coaches in the Lower 48, he knew the opportunity for Freeman to strike it rich was there.
“I reached out to couple teams and they were interested,” Daly said. “For him being a graduated senior, this was kind of his last chance to make it or break it.”
“I’m happy for him, it’s well deserved on his part.”
Freeman got a late start with the 2016 Oilers, making his first appearance July 9 against the Mat-Su Miners. After several players were sent home due to injury and pitching conflicts, Daly said it left a spot open for Freeman to fill, and the 22-year-old made the most of his time on the Kenai Peninsula.
Freeman’s best start of the summer came Aug. 2, on the penultimate day of the regular season, when he gave up one run on four hits in six innings of ball. Freeman struck out six batters and did not issue a single walk, but was still credited with the loss in the 1-0 game.
“It was big boost for us, and it got us going in the right direction,” Daly said, pointing out that the team was able to finish strong after a late slump doomed the Oilers chances in 2015. “Hasten was a stopper for us, he didn’t allow that to happen.”